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.
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