April 25, 2011

NSA to Build Massive Supercomputing Datacenter

Michael Feldman

A recent article in InformationWeek reports that the US National Security Agency (NSA) is designing what may be the largest HPC center every built. The new facility is slated to be built a the NSA’s Fort Meade, Maryland facility and be completed in 2015. According to an unclassified doc uncovered by the InformationWeek, the center will cost $895.6 million to construct, draw 60 megawatts (MW) of power, and be designed to “support state-of-the-art high-performance computing devices and associated hardware architecture.”

For comparison, the new supercomputing facility constructed for the multi-petaflop “Blue Waters” machine at University of Illinois for the NCSA costs a mere $72.5 million and will draw just 24 MW. That center will house the upcoming Blue Waters super and an unspecified number of smaller HPC machines. Blue Waters alone will require 15 MW of power.

Although no square footage specs were provided for the new NSA center, the 60 MW power draw is on par with the largest datacenters run by giant Internet providers like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft. And despite the hefty power requirements, the NSA facility is being designed for LEED Silver certification to comply with strict standards on use of water, energy, and materials (as is the Blue Waters center).

The specific purpose of the supercomputers that will end up at Fort Meade was not disclosed, but the NSA and the other three-letter agencies are well-known for doing cutting-edge data mining and other forms of analytics required for their national security mission. Give the size of this center, it will probably be the home for at least one multi-petaflop system that could rival the largest supercomputers on the planet. Not that we’ll every know that. Those NSA machines are not likely to appear on the TOP500 list and will certainly never elicit a press release from the agency.

Full story at InformationWeek