NSA wants to build $896.5 million supercomputing center

By on April 22, 2011, 3:26 PM
The National Security Agency (NSA) is designing a new $895.6 million supercomputing complex called the High Performance Computing Center, to be complete by December 2015. It will be constructed at its Fort Meade, Maryland, headquarters over the next several years according to National Security Agency Military Construction, Defense-Wide FY 2012 Budget Estimates (19-page PDF via InformationWeek).

The Department of Defense budget document indicates that the project will be designed with energy efficiency, security, and "state-of-the-art" computing horsepower in mind, including the goal of attaining an LEED Silver certification by conserving water, energy, and materials. The specifications for the new supercomputing complex seem to suggest that the NSA is building a massive data center, with typical needs such as raised flooring, chilled water systems, fire suppression, alarms, as well as power requirements of 60 megawatts.

The NSA is requesting $84.7 million for the new High Performance Computing Center in fiscal 2012, including $35 million for planning and design. That will be followed up with a planned $399.9 million in fiscal 2013, and $431 million to complete the center in fiscal 2014. Unsurprisingly, the supercomputing complex will have expensive protection, including an estimated $15.1 million in building security and $21.7 million on perimeter control. The security features will include a vehicle cargo inspection facility, a visitor control center, card access control, video surveillance, intrusion detection systems, chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear detection systems, perimeter fencing, and so on.

In addition to the supercomputing center and a few non-tech related construction projects, the budget document also shows a $246.4 million request for 2012 to be used for NSA's new cybersecurity data center under construction at Camp Williams, Utah as well as a $68.6 million request for a new generator at NSA's communications intercept site at RAF Menwith Hill in England.




User Comments: 47

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AnonymousSurfer AnonymousSurfer said:

I say hell yes we need to take over the computing world again and have the best supercomputer!!!

Scshadow said:

Yes we're way over our head in debt. Lets buy a fancy new computer custom built. Gonna be super outdated in a year. The american consumer can do it so why can't the government.

Win7Dev said:

Forget single computer, go for linked servers. Throw in eight to ten thousand Tesla's from Nvidia and your all good. Get a bunch of programmers to write whatever you need in CUDA and your set. You won't be able to match that amount of horsepower easily. Think how fast you could create a rainbow table and break a password. The NSA will have absolutely no problems getting through any modern security measures if need be.

Guest said:

I guess my question would be is what kind of data is the government going to crunch in this badass center?

Lurker101 said:

Maybe they just want to run Crysis?

Guest said:

Just have Amazon create a virtual super computer.

It only cost $1000 an hour to use it.

SSaywell said:

Lurker101 said:

Maybe they just want to run Crysis?

HAHA

Good to see they don't want much (!)

Cota Cota said:

I want that potency expressed in Marks please!

Guest said:

I guess they need this to store all the airport scanner images for future reference.

Really, what are they going to do with this super computer? Everyone in gov't already has an ipad, laptop, and desktop at public expense. This computer is for what exactly???

Guest said:

re: "$21 million for perimeter control"

That money would be better spent at the border if you know what I mean...

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Really, what are they going to do with this super computer? Everyone in gov't already has an ipad, laptop, and desktop at public expense. This computer is for what exactly???

This is because the Chinese handed us our a**es with their new super computer. Why would you need a better reason than a pissing contest to spend close to a Billion dollars?

Guest said:

What was that line from Independence Day .. oh yeah .. "What? You don't think they really spent $80 on a toilet set, do you?"

TrekExpert TrekExpert said:

Ya, but can it run Crysis?

Wendig0 Wendig0, TechSpot Paladin, said:

For $896 mil, I would have hoped they could come up with a better name than "High Performance Computing Center".

Recipe7 Recipe7 said:

While millions of Americans are out of a job, this is something the government prefers to fund?

Sad.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Ya, but can it run Crysis?
Yeah, probably very well. But then you won't be allowed in to use it, so what's the point in asking?

Placeholder Placeholder said:

I already KNOW it's going to come up with "42" as the answer - give ME the money.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

I already KNOW it's going to come up with "42" as the answer - give ME the money.
God, do you know how old that joke is?

---agissi--- ---agissi---, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Sure a billion dollar budget sounds about right. Go figure

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Sure a billion dollar budget sounds about right. Go figure
Probably more, if it's a Dell.

Placeholder Placeholder said:

Hunh. 60 Mw is the exact same amount required to run Disney World for a day! Coincidence...?

http://www.wdwmagic.com/Facts!.htm

That comes out to $2,761,809.00 per year at today's residential rates. Is that in the budget too...?

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Either that or the "Energizer Bunny" fires it up as part of a sentence to public service.

ihaveaname said:

captaincranky said:

I already KNOW it's going to come up with "42" as the answer - give ME the money.
God, do you know how old that joke is?

Hey, I laughed....

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

I already KNOW it's going to come up with "42" as the answer - give ME the money.
God, do you know how old that joke is?
Hey, I laughed....

Yeah but dude, it was first told in 1979: [link]

Guest said:

People who say why spend money on this when there's unemployment are kinda silly. Majority of that money actually goes into jobs and industrys like construction and computer creating more work.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

People who say why spend money on this when there's unemployment are kinda silly. Majority of that money actually goes into jobs and industrys like construction and computer creating more work.
The only problem with that is, we're liable to wind up buying some of the parts from China. After all, Intel has a huge, just built fab there. GMC even sold its "Hummer" division to China. Did you get the memo on that little gem?

Developers always tout the building of a new mall, as "job creation". That's pretty much a smoke screen. The construction jobs are temporary, and once it's built, it supplies teenagers minimum wage jobs, while exporting American cash to China where the goods are made.

Oh, and the developers usually skate on the taxes, after blowing all this sunshine up public officials bottoms.

Besides, due to automation, at a site such as this, the quantity of permanent jobs created might be relatively small, as compared to the overall investment. An installation such as this would indeed employ the technical elite, and some janitors. But, overall it wouldn't create a more widespread impact on the jobs market.

And lest we forget, this is the NSA were talking about, A computer such as this would herald the arrival of "Big Brother" in no uncertain terms.

Guest said:

Dude, the supercomputer you want them to so badly build is going to be spying on you as well as our enemies...

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Dude, the supercomputer you want them to so badly build is going to be spying on you as well as our enemies...
I believe I just said that. Last sentence in the post above. (Post #27)

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

The 60MW usage pretty much dovetails with the figures that have been mooted by Bill Dally (Stanford University/Nvidia) and the rest of the working group in DARPA's [link] , although it seems a fair way off assuming the petascale cluster (Nvidia+Cray, MIT's CSAIL, Sandia and Intel(+ SGI ?)) is in the 2015 timeframe - which would likely be the object residing in this new facility...likely later to be joined by the exascale version.

It would seem that 2018 would be the earliest that an exascale cluster is likely to be up and running.

* exaflop= 10 ^18 floating point operations per second

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

captaincranky said:

Really, what are they going to do with this super computer? Everyone in gov't already has an ipad, laptop, and desktop at public expense. This computer is for what exactly???

This is because the Chinese handed us our a**es with their new super computer. Why would you need a better reason than a pissing contest to spend close to a Billion dollars?

Yes, but the problem is the treasury will need to print more greenbacks to build this computer, which isn't the best of economic ideas.

insect said:

Guest said:

People who say why spend money on this when there's unemployment are kinda silly. Majority of that money actually goes into jobs and industrys like construction and computer creating more work.

Yes, but it's easier to point the finger and say "You! There! You fix it! I'll watch. When you're done, I'll tell you that you did a terrible job even when it's exactly what I ordered!"

Guest said:

If this is what the NSA is willing to reveal in the public budget, I am scared to think about their classified budget.

Guest said:

By 2015, the newly built computer that was planned today will be obsolete.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

skynet
I guess that hackneyed meme had to come up. (No harm, no foul though, I've used it myself).

Permit me to counter that with, "but will this version of "Skynet" run Crysis"?

Or perhaps, "do you think this version of "Skynet" will be willing to run "Crysis" for us"?

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

By 2015, the newly built computer that was planned today will be obsolete.

Ah, yet another moronic drive-by comment from the Guest account....I thought we were missing for the day.

So, by that reasoning, IBM's Roadrunner (DoE Los Alamos National Laborotory) should be approaching obsolescence now...not bad for a cluster still ranked 7th.

Then of course there is the more lengthy timeline associated with BlueGene/L. -Project announced 1999, on stream 2004, presently ranked 12th on computational throughput.

It's a pity that the some people don't grasp that a HPC cluster tends to be evolutionary in nature, in much the same way as upgrading components in home computer systems are.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

I guess that hackneyed meme had to come up. (No harm, no foul though, I've used it myself).

Permit me to counter that with, "but will this version of "Skynet" run Crysis"?

Or perhaps, "do you think this version of "Skynet" will be willing to run "Crysis" for us"?

You can expect a long life from that cliche captain.

My guess is that once the exascale cluster becomes more concrete in how it will be used operationally and the exact hardware fit-out is known there will be another flurry of Skynet posts and a great wailing and gnashing of teeth once people actually realise that exascale clusters will be using a self-aware operating system and runtime- partially the reason I linked in my earlier post - a little experiment on my part to see what percentage of posters are interested in the tech...and how many are just running their mouths because Two and a Half Men isn't showing any new episodes.

I look forward to seeing the front-page news stories in a couple of years in relation to the self-aware OS becoming reality...to the collective gasps, hue and cry, and not to mention "Will it run..."

For all the debate in the forum about expenditure, it is still a fundamental truth that what is developed for defense contracts today becomes a consumer product tomorrow. Aside from the ethics involved with that expenditure I would have thought it apropos to look at what this facility is looking to accomplish (from a tech viewpoint), and what the consumer can look forward to in realms of parallelization.

Oh, and 0%.

The number of people railing at the defence budget that will actually lever themselves away from the keyboard and invest some modicum of time and energy in protesting the announcement outside of the TS forums.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

I look forward to seeing the front-page news stories in a couple of years in relation to the self-aware OS becoming reality...to the collective gasps, hue and cry, and not to mention "Will it run..."....[ ]...

For all the debate in the forum about expenditure, it is still a fundamental truth that what is developed for defense contracts today becomes a consumer product tomorrow.

So what you're saying then is, sometime down the road, there may be a consumer OS that will be able to befriend me, and tolerate my s*** , on a fairly regular basis.

I can't wait, but I do think it's highly unlikely, considering the massive difficulties associated with those particular design parameters....

I hope you appreciate the irony in this. When I followed your link to "exascale software issues" and tried to open the PDF, Firefox crashed and wouldn't load te page.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

I hope you appreciate the irony in this. When I followed your link to "exascale software issues" and tried to open the PDF, Firefox crashed and wouldn't load te page.

That's pretty odd.

I didn't link to any pdf's !

Ironic indeed...

Must have been some weird redirect, as the link I posted was a html version of "ExaScale Software Study: Software Challenges in Extreme Scale Systems" (Sept 14, 2009). A quick Google should produce a few links- I think the study was commented upon by all and sundry when it was published.

So what you're saying then is, sometime down the road, there may be a consumer OS that will be able to befriend me, and tolerate my s*** , on a fairly regular basis.

Hey, lets not get carried away here ! Although you might be in demand as a beta tester for an empathic OS.....I'm pretty certain it would end up needing multiple patching and a quick-start recovery console once you exploited the logic holes you would undoubtably uncover.

foreverzero89 said:

Lurker101 said:

Maybe they just want to run Crysis?

haha you wish. it'll prob be used to spy on the people, even more than they do now.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

haha you wish. it'll prob be used to spy on the people, even more than they do now.
What tipped you off, was it the "NSA" in the title of the article?

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

It strikes me as odd that so many believe the US government is basically incompetant in managing most facets of its mandate (economy/healthcare/welfare/unemployment etc.), yet still believe that the same government has the professional ability to gather, correlate and utilise information on all of its citizens -and everyone elses.....unless the fear is not "big brother" coming to pass but "big brother-who-hasn't-been-right-since-being-dropped-on-hi
-head".

Given that most people seem to think that this computational power is going to used to sift through all of the US's phone and internet traffic, I would take a look at what kind of results they would likely obtain after crawling through a nations verbal/pic/text messages, twitter, facebook, myspace, Youtube, tumblr, Craigslist etc...

Good luck putting anything coherant together after that.

I would suggest that the NSA are more likely to catch out one of their own, since military/government employees seen to be regularly caught out (Holly Graf, Jill Metzger, XO Movie Night, Abu ghraib, political foot/cigar in mouth/other) in this semi-technological age.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

It strikes me as odd that so many believe the US government is basically incompetant in managing most facets of its mandate (economy/healthcare/welfare/unemployment etc.), yet still believe that the same government has the professional ability to gather, correlate and utilise information on all of its citizens -and everyone elses.....unless the fear is not "big brother" coming to pass but "big brother-who-hasn't-been-right-since-being-dropped-on-hi
-head".

Well, there's probably two slants on this. The US government is enormously successful at the art of self expansion, and certainly self perpetuation. In fact, at the higher levels people like senators, will still get paid, even during a "shutdown".

As you know, one salient, "we have to cover our a**es on this one", explanation from all of our security services after 911, was, "we had the data, we were simply unable to process it. Then came, "there was insufficient coordination between branches of law enforcement". A sentient OS in a supercomputer, could ostensibly be justified in that, "it could glean the data for us", and have all branches of law enforcement on the same page in no time. Whether the is true or not, it's most likely the most persuasive sales pitch they have. In essence, "if you let us play with "skynet", it will help us to play well together".

The primary duty of every branch of government seems to be making sure it gets more than its fair share of the tax "pie". And this supercomputer scheme, is doubtless, no exception.

Then there's the probably pervasive embarrassment still being felt by the Chinese having the fastest computer. Never underestimate the power of a petty bureaucrat's ego, in shaping the, "course our nation is on".

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

I wouldn't disagree that the lack of computing power would be seen as a suitable scapegoat to absolve the paper-shufflers/professional lobbyists- after all, by the time it comes online most of (if not all) the people hiding behind that reasoning will likely be on a fat government pension and collecting directorship salary/stock options for the company- sorry, I mean country- they fought so valiantly for.

I wouldn't argue that the funding could be used for much more socially acceptable projects. Given the markup that computer componentry enjoys I dare say the U.S. administration could buy China's Tiahne-1A (or maybe an open box Cray XT6 from the egg?) when the Chinese go shopping for a new supercomputer or two- obviously needed since they have 5-6 times the population of the U.S. that needs spying upon, and the ever increasing number of gadgets and fads that will need reverse engineering.

What actually seems odd is that the people seem intent on fostering, and nurturing their own paranoia about personal/civil rights violations....in a climate where Street View and Google Earth can turn everyone into a P.I.,people quite happily posting every facet of their public and personal lives online, and connecting to the net with little or no regard for putting in place security measures.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

What actually seems odd is that the people seem intent on fostering, and nurturing their own paranoia about personal/civil rights violations....in a climate where Street View and Google Earth can turn everyone into a P.I.,people quite happily posting every facet of their public and personal lives online, and connecting to the net with little or no regard for putting in place security measures.
Yeah but, that street view stuff is Google, and Google is on our side right...!!!! or maybe right ????

Besides, the consensus there is, "well if I'm not doing anything wrong then it doesn't matter".

I would implore you to , "fire up a big pot of the gassiest food you can think off, so they can continue giving both their contradictory opinions simultaneously, from their only two, (interchangeable), moving parts". thereby perpetuating this discussion..! (Well at least until the broccoli passes).

Guest said:

If they built the computers themself instead of going to PC World, they could cut that cost if half.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

If they built the computers themself instead of going to PC World, they could cut that cost if half.
You know, I've never ever seen a Cray on sale as a Newegg, "Shell Shocker". Meh, maybe one day.

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