Tuesday, July 7, 2009
The United States’ National Security Agency (NSA) is planning on spending around $1.8 billion to build itself a new, million square foot data center in Fort Williams, Utah, according to a document  on military construction for 2009.
This branching out is largely due to the fact that the NSA’s power bill is too much, so the move is in hopes of doing the same work in a place where electricity is cheaper. The initial infrastructure is for 65MW of power distribution, but it seems that the ultimate plan is to build a 5.8 million square foot “campus” at its current data center in Fort Meade.
This is some terrible news for private companies that want to build data centers as the proper territory is hard to come by. When Google wants to put up a new server building, they can’t just do it anywhere. Bad climates are prohibitive; if it’s too hot, your machines need more cooling, which leads to more of a power draw, and if there are a lot of natural disasters in the area, your whole operation could be wrecked in a single earthquake.
(ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW)
The other factor in what makes good data center land is how cheap electricity can be bought for in a given region. Given the enormous amount of energy it takes to keep a building full of servers running, any lowering of the power bill is going to add up to a lot by way of savings.
The worst part of all this is that there’s no guarantee that building more NSA data centers will actually do anything useful. Apparently no one has ever run a cost-benefit analysis of NSA spending versus actually keeping people safe. And that’s really a shame, because the American tax payer is set to drop the $1.8 billion this scheme is going to cost, even if it does not lead to any real benefits.
Hopefully Congress will step in before this plans are set into motion and require some report on whether or not this new data center will serve any beneficial purpose. Then again, the NSA could just take the money and run under pretexts of patriotism; it wouldn’t be the first time patriotism has been used to justify improper government action .