October 8, 2013 (TSR) – The US National Security Agency (NSA) vast data storage facility in Utah suffers delaying its opening due to widespread technical failures, including 10 “meltdowns” within the past 13 months according to a report.
The Pentagon’s facility, located in Bluffdale, which lies south of Salt Lake City, is being built to house a gargantuan quantity of data harvested, presumably, by many of the NSA’s surveillance programs now made public by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.
Estimates of the facility’s capacity, which is classified, ranges from exabytes or zettabytes, reports the Wall Street Journal. An exabyte is equivalent to 100,000 times the size of printed material held by the Library of Congress, while a zettabyte is 1,000 times that amount.
A new report compiled through project documents and information provided to the WSJ by officials cite a number of electrical surges — called “arc fault failures” — which over the past 13 months have destroyed hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment, and delayed the facility from going active for a year.
According to one official, such arc fault failures can resemble “a flash of lightning inside a 2-foot box” and can melt metal and destroy circuitry.
The $1.5 billion facility is estimated to be not only the NSA’s largest data center, but the largest in the world, with some 1 million square feet of space. Engineers have said the center will dwarf even Google’s largest data hub.
Special teams from the Army Corps of Engineers have been assigned to investigate the electrical issues at the Utah center. The most recent arc failure according to the WSJ seems to have occurred on September 25, causing $100,000 in damage. The first such reported failure is thought to have taken place on August 9 of last year.
So far the information available indicates that the reason for the technical failures remains in dispute. A statement issued by a consortium of private contractors currently working on site eluded to the sheer complexity of the data warehouse as the culprit.
“Problems were discovered with certain parts of the unique and highly complex electrical system. The causes of those problems have been determined and a permanent fix is being implemented,” said the firms.
According to various reports, including the latest by the WSJ, the Bluffdale site was chosen by the NSA owing to its affordable electricity. The data hub will consume some 65 megawatts of energy at a cost of $1 million per month.