The NSA Is Building a Giant Data Center In Utah. What Will It Store?

Note: While the government is stepping up its cyber security, NetHosting already has an extremely sound and stable security network in place to guard your information.

The humongous data center being built close to Salt Lake City, Utah has sparked some controversy. But do we know what will actually be housed there?

In a previous blog, we talked about the government trying to step up its presence and security in the cyber world. This trend is known as The Comprehensive National Cyber-security Initiative or the CNCI. The CNCI was launched by President George W. Bush in January 2008 as part of a Homeland Security Presidential Directive. President Barack Obama kept the initiative and expanded it to provide essential components to a national U.S. cybersecurity strategy. The CNCI is made up of twelve initiatives which are supposed to cover cybersecurity, defense, counter intelligence, and policing.

The NSA Is Building a Giant Data Center In Utah. What Will It Store?

As technology becomes increasingly integrated with personal daily life, the different initiatives have undergone transformations and further definition in what extent the federal government is allowed to monitor or dabble in the cyber world. Of the initiatives, one that has come under constant debate is the twelfth which is to “Define the Federal role for extending cybersecurity into critical infrastructure domains.” Various legislations which have attempted to ban certain methods of file sharing or piracy tend to fit under this initiative.

Though the CNCI is primarily cyber, there are still physical manifestations of this. One of the largest signs of the CNCI is the emerging National Security Agency’s data center located near Bluffdale, Utah. With a current price tag of US$2 billion, 1 million square feet (twice the size of the U.S. Capitol building), sitting on over 200 acres of land, with a backup supply of three days power and fuel, the NSA’s Utah data center is the largest U.S. Department of Defense’s construction project and will be the largest government owned data center.  The projected date of completion is September 2013.

Utah, namely Camp Williams, was awarded this contract in 2010 but planning for a massive data center in this location had been in the works decades beforehand. The Army Corp of Engineers will be spearheading the construction of this facility and various private contractors will be helping alongside. The contract is an Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity contract, basically a blank check with the government’s signature on it. Whatever it takes to make it the most state-of-the-art, secure data center, the government says do it. The ground breaking was held on January 6, 2011 at Camp Williams. Since the ground breaking, between five to ten thousand workers have been employed to help in construction.

The NSA, in an official press release, explains why they have put so much effort and resources into this project. They state, “The data center will be a state-of-the-art facility designed to support the Intelligence Community's efforts to further strengthen and protect the nation's cyber security.” And NSA Deputy Director John C. Inglis asserts that these measures are necessary to live in “an era when [the] nation and its allies are increasingly dependent on the integrity of information and systems supported, transmitted, or stored in cyberspace.” In the same spirit of cyber security, there is little known to what the server architecture is going to look like. This data center is supposed to store and shield sensitive national security networks. It’s also a part of the government's push towards cloud storage and cloud computing.

Note: You probably won't be storing the petabytes the Government does, but NetHosting is prepared to meet the requirements of  your data hosting, whatever they are.

Naturally, the public reaction has been mixed to say the least. While many people are grateful to have jobs in Utah, others are skeptical labeling the data center as a “spy center” or the American citizenry’s “data pool.” Many critics use the 100,000+ square feet of computer space being built in this compound as evidence of the NSA storing petabytes worth of information from domestic spying. The NSA has attempted to alleviate these accusations by claiming the NSA has neither the “interest nor the capabilities” in storing information on its citizens. It also cites the fact that this compound will only hire 100 to 200 full-time employees. For a compound as big as this which will store mountains of information, one would expect to have more employees if its purpose was global surveillance and analysis.

Whether it is a spying center or just a data center, it is going to become one of the largest government information clouds. The NSA also states that the information that will be held in the data center has already existed or will be gathered eventually, that this is simply a consolidation of thousands of servers placed over the globe. The low risk area and availability of power in Utah (the data center is expected to consume 65 megawatts on a continual basis) attracted the NSA. And by consolidating so much information, the NSA can better secure the data and make it more accessible to employees no matter their location. Whether we should fear or not isn’t quite clear, but the point is: this is going to be a giant data center!

 

About Andy Chapman

Andy has loved writing since he was a child and enjoys writing as an occupation and hobby. He loves history, traveling, being outdoors, and is preparing for the robot uprising.



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