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NSA's New Utah Data Center Suffering Meltdowns 241

Posted by timothy
from the high-grade-shadenfreude dept.
linuxwrangler writes "NSA's new Utah data-center has been suffering numerous power-surges that have caused as much as $100,000 damage per event. The root cause is 'not yet sufficiently understood' but is suspected to relate to the site's 'inability to simultaneously run computers and keep them cool.' Frustrating the analysis and repair are 'incomplete information about the design of the electrical system' and the fact that "regular quality controls in design and construction were bypassed in an effort to fast track the Utah project."" Ars Technica has a short article, too, as does ITworld.
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NSA's New Utah Data Center Suffering Meltdowns

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  • Re:good? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @11:42AM (#45070853)

    in the 'new america' you can't know if this kind of article is a fishing trap to find people who vocally disagree with the NSA.

    it seems like east germany from a decade or two (or 3) ago. people were always wondering who is a spy. the guy next door? your teacher? your boss? you never knew. the mistrust ran very deep.

    welcome to the new USA where the same feelings are now 'imported' and we wonder who is real, who is a plant and who is a double agent. we have to worry about everything we say and if it could be taken out of context or misinterpreted.

    great. just great. chilling effect on steroids.

  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @11:43AM (#45070871) Journal

    The submission had one article, the editors linked to two more.

    Is it so hard to include a link to the source of this story? []
    (Google Cache just in case [] /. does this far too often and I hope to see better in the future

  • by Professr3 (670356) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @11:44AM (#45070901)
    Bureaucratic incompetence has been the strongest protector of civil liberties to date :\
  • Re:good? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by interkin3tic (1469267) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @11:47AM (#45070935)
    I'm conflicted about your post. I think it's good to point out why the NSA spying on everything is a good thing to people who might otherwise be apathetic, but I think you engage in hyperbole which might cause more people to ignore the situation and write it off as paranoia.

    Maybe suggest that COULD happen if we don't take steps to pare down the NSA now rather than suggesting it's something you're already worried about.

    Not saying you're wrong, just that the NSA is spending a lot of time and effort (and money) on PR to convince the public they have nothing to fear. We need to similarly think about PR concerns in order to have a chance of opposing it.
  • Re:Good! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by intermodal (534361) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @11:47AM (#45070939) Homepage Journal

    I'm less convinced that it will actually be used against the evil. Especially in the resulting balance of use.

  • Re:good? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TemperedAlchemist (2045966) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @11:49AM (#45070975)

    We'll just be footing the bill.

  • by Salgak1 (20136) <salgak&speakeasy,net> on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @11:51AM (#45070995) Homepage

    . . .eats huge amounts of power, not large amounts of water for cooling.

    And thus, power requirements go up, pushing the limits of your provisioned electrical infrastructure.

    And extremely-high-capacity circuit breakers tend to be explody when they fail. My guess: someone used some REALLY bad assumptions for electrical infrastructure planning. . .

  • by Catbeller (118204) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @12:04PM (#45071185) Homepage

    This isn't the result of incompetence - rather the result of trying to racing to finish the thing before any more opposition builds up that may stop the project. Wile E. Coyote trying to run on air, knowing it's impossible, but trying to get to the cliff before gravity notices the flagrant violation.

    When that monster is done - and it seems that they are turning it on *right now*, this week - human history is done as we understand it. We will all behave as though someone is watching and recording us, because they will be.

    Scientology is going to *love* this - one stop shopping for all its spying needs. The NSA just last week asked permission for private corporations to access their new trove of data, Because Terrorism. The Unification Church and Scientology will be first in line with front corporations to drink deep of this wonderful new integrated terrorism enabling center - terrorism because bad guys like Scientology will be able to terrorize people with fresh, holistic super-knowledge not only of who they are, what they say, what they read and where they've been, but also of everyone their enemies ever talk to, email, walk next to, text or write to. That center isn't about just metadata, it's the *actual phone conversations* that will be recorded. Don't ever piss off the powerful, 'cause they can nail you and anyone who ever contacts you until you give up. Blackmail, extortion, we-know-where-you-kids-are... anything. And the coolest part is that it will all be secret! Persecutors with behind stage access to the NSA superboxes and analytic tools won't even be logged in any real sense. Political opposition, nullified, instantly. The possibilities for our brave new world owners are limitless.

  • by bobbied (2522392) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @12:12PM (#45071275)

    If they fast-tracked the project, they probably didn't have an electrical engineer do a load analysis.

    In my experience, some engineer probably DID the analysis, but they ignored him/her because it would take too long to do it right. The revision 1 Blue prints where already under contract and it would take too long to process a change order. Of course, everybody KNEW that the design had a fatal flaw, at least until the program management started leaving like rats from a sinking ship and their replacements where not aware (or told) of the problems.

    The original engineer is then tasked with fixing the problem with about 1/4 the resources necessary and no authority to actually make any changes to the project. Every time there is a power failure and equipment gets smoked, the engineer is blamed for not having the "problem" fixed. His performance rating takes a dive at the next performance review and he either quits in frustration or gets fired.

    That's what happens in large government projects... At least in my experience...

  • by linuxwrangler (582055) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @12:13PM (#45071287)

    Works for Switch in Las Vegas. Cold in winter and cools off at night so 70% of annual hours they can pull in ambient air through filters. Evaporative cooling, whether direct or to cool the hot-side of a refrigerated system, works best in dry climates but it's only used to improve efficiency as they can run fine with air-cooling albeit at much higher power costs.

    I'm still surprised at the number of places that think cooling is optional. We had equipment in a Sacramento data-center that had plenty of backup electricity for servers but couldn't run the AC in a power outage. The SLA only had provisions for exceeding 80-degrees for more than something like 90 or 120 minutes. *Ahem*, cold-comfort when a dense data-center can blow through 100 in minutes without AC.

    UC Berkeley had a widespread power outage about a week ago. The main campus data center had power but, you guessed it, couldn't run cooling and had to "gracefully" shut down most of the core systems while watching the center breach 100F.

    But I agree with your base assumption - really bad planning and/or execution on the power systems.

  • by stenvar (2789879) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @12:17PM (#45071331)

    to a nicer data center...

  • by cold fjord (826450) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @12:23PM (#45071409)

    Iranian Stuxnet? No, just government contractors on a rush job that badly documented and cut corners on a sensitive aspect of the design that controls massive resources (power (65 megawatts - enough to power a small city), cooling, etc.) critical to the function of the datacenter. This is generally referred to as, “your tax dollars at work.”

  • Re:Good! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by disposable60 (735022) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @12:23PM (#45071411) Journal
    Doesn't it depend on your definition of evil? To a dedicated Statist, the Bill of Rights is "just a damned piece of paper" in which the rights of the Polity are fully enumerated - until exigencies make them inconvenient. The danger is that only dedicated Statists make it to the highest positions of Authority.
  • Re:good? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @12:26PM (#45071445)
    Maybe you missed the article a few days ago about how the US is barring critics/dissidents from entering the country? Not criminals, not "terrorists", simply people who disagree cannot travel freely. This really is a police state now, and it's only a matter of time before the 1st Amendment becomes about as well honored as the 2nd, which is to say wholly selectively suiting the needs of the state based on arbitrary standards the founders were explicitly against in their writings.
  • Re:good? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by msauve (701917) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @12:44PM (#45071711)
    " it's only a matter of time before the 1st Amendment becomes about as well honored as the 2nd"

    It's about time we had reasonable, common sense restrictions on the press. Scented inserts and metallic type should be illegal in magazines. No one needs high speed printing presses which can automatically feed reams of paper - they should be restricted for government and military use. Private citizens will still be able to use hand fed mimeograph machines, so their rights won't be violated. Anyone publishing news should have to be licensed, with a journalism degree from an accredited university.
  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @12:47PM (#45071745)

    Never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by incompetence.

  • Re:good? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Tuesday October 08, 2013 @02:46PM (#45073505) Journal

    you know what's different between the NSA 2013 and the Stasi? Immidiate consequences. If someone informed on you doing something the government didn't like, they'd be dealt with immediatly. This helped connect the idea in people's minds that constant government survaleance = bad thing. Right now, that's not happening. NSA has all this data, but they haven't done anything with it that people can see. That doesn't mean its harmless, it just means that people can't see the harm yet.

The flush toilet is the basis of Western civilization. -- Alan Coult