What The Inside of an NSA Data Center Looks Like

There’s been intense interest lately in the new National Security Agency data center in Bluffdale, Utah and its capabilities. The NSA isn’t likely to allow the world a look inside the new Utah data center anytime soon. But that hasn’t always been the case. A 2001 Discovery Channel documentary provided an unprecedented look inside the NSA’s facility in Fort Meade, Maryland – including the agency’s supercomputing facility. The systems were housed in a specially designed facility on the second floor of the two story building, while the first floor was dedicated to massive cooling units featuring 8,000 tons of water chilled flourinert, a liquid cooling agent used to bring down the temperature of electronic components. The facility provided an early example of two-tier design that separates the IT equipment from mechanical and electrical infrastructure, an approach commonly seen today. The agency’s cryptologists rely on these computers’ power and speed to make and break codes. At the time, one of the agency’s most powerful supercomputers was a system from the Thinking Machines Corporation that is highlighted in this video excerpt from the documentary. This video runs 1:36.

Other excerpts from this broadcast are available on the National Geographic web site. For additional data center videos, check out our DCK video archive and the Data Center Videos channel on YouTube.

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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.

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  1. Richard Deal

    This is NOT the NSA data center. it is the CM5 facility at NRL from ~1995