NSA Maxes Out Baltimore Power Grid

The National Security Agency’s technology infrastructure at Fort Meade, Md. has maxed out the electric capacity of the Baltimore area power grid, creating a major challenge for the agency, sources told the Baltimore Sun. An excerpt:

The NSA is already unable to install some costly and sophisticated new equipment, including two new supercomputers, for fear of blowing out the electrical infrastructure, they said. At minimum, the problem could produce disruptions leading to outages and power surges at the Fort Meade headquarters, hampering the work of intelligence analysts and damaging equipment, they said. At worst, it could force a virtual shutdown of the agency, paralyzing the intelligence operation, erasing crucial intelligence data and causing irreparable damage to computer systems — all detrimental to the fight against terrorism.

The NSA is Baltimore Gas & Electric’s largest customer, using as much electricity as the city of Annapolis. The Sun reports that some equipment at NSA is already facing cooling challenges (sound familiar to anyone here?) and the agency is considering short-term contingency plans that could entail relocating equipment to areas with better power capacity. This is a must-read cautionary tale about the cost of delay and paralysis on this issue. See Slashdot for additional discussion.

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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.