Monday, 6 July 2009

Super-Data Centres

Has anyone got a spare million lying around? How about cheeky $2 billion?

The NSA (National Security Agency) in America, has announced plans that they intend to build a $2 billion, 1 million sq ft data centre in Utah as they are fast growing out of their Fort Meade headquarters. The proposed 65 MW facility will be sited on 2 major power corridors and will house new supercomputers that the Fort Meade facility can no longer support. The NSA, who watch and listen to most communications - via the internet, phone calls, radio broadcasting and other communications methods. They watch over the whole world's communications, attempting to spot dangers to the USA from foreigners. An element of this information is shared with GCHQ, the UK's version of the NSA. The NSA build bespoke supercomputers to break ciphers and encryption around the world, which require huge amounts of power and cooling to operate effectively. As an example, the world's most powerful supercomputer, the IBM Roadrunner takes up 296, 42U racks and uses 2.53MW of power, not including the water-cooled CRAC units.

In the UK we can presume that GCHQ must have a similar sized computing capacity. There is not much information as you would expect from a highly classified branch of the government, but they have stated that “It’s hard for an outsider to imagine the immense size and sheer power of GCHQ’s supercomputing architecture.” This does beg the question, does the government/GCHQ have access to vast amounts of power that is not readily available to the public and average data centre operator. There is a severe shortage of power in the UK which has been highlighted through the reserving of electricity for the Olympics by many companies who have been paying vast sums of money in a bidding war to secure the limited power available. The government has a plan in place to build a number of new nuclear power stations and clean coal powered stations (which will include carbon capture) by 2018, but many sources are saying that the UK will run out of power by 2015 as old power stations come to the end of their lives.

The best way to safeguard your data centre or computer room for the future is to make it more efficient now so that you will not require excessive power in the next 10 years. Migration Solutions are specialist Data Centre consultants who design and build, operate and migrate data centres all over the UK and Europe and have recently won Information Age's Data Centre Innovation award for ERA, an Environmental Report and Assessment which looks at ways that computer room and data centre operators can cut costs and improve their facilities efficiency. For more information visit or call 0845 251 2255.

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