[ExI] The NSA's new data center

Tomasz Rola rtomek at ceti.pl
Sun Apr 1 02:01:25 UTC 2012

On Sat, 31 Mar 2012, BillK wrote:

> On Sat, Mar 31, 2012 at 8:57 PM, Eugen Leitl  wrote:
> > Database sizes are irrelevant, you're running a highly specialized system,
> > not stock Oracle.
> >
> > It's perfectly possible to keep ~PByte/rack online, and I would put
> > the limit at 10^4 racks/facility. So in practice you're looking at
> > ~10 EByte/facility. It's probably more ~1 EByte/facility.
> >
> >
> kilobyte (kB) 	10^3 	
> megabyte (MB) 	10^6 	
> gigabyte (GB) 	10^9 	
> terabyte (TB) 	10^12
> petabyte (PB) 	10^15
> exabyte (EB) 	10^18
> zettabyte (ZB) 	10^21
> yottabyte (YB) 	10^24
> The original article says 'as a 2007 Department of Defense report puts
> it, the Pentagon is attempting to expand its worldwide communications
> network, known as the Global Information Grid, to handle yottabytes
> (1024 bytes) of data.'
> Wikipedia says:
> In January 2012, Cray began construction of the Blue Waters
> Supercomputer, which will have a capacity of 500 petabytes making it
> the largest storage array ever, if realized.
> ------------

I think there needs to be made a distinction between:

- storage array - based on multiple hard drives - good for example, to 
process grandiose matrixes... lets say square matrixes having 10^8 rows 
and columns of double precision floats and you want to multiply two of 
them... a trivial algorithm wouldn't fit into any supercomputer memory, 
AFAIK (K-computer has about 1,3PB of RAM = 80000 nodes * 16GB RAM each, 
by wikipedia). I'm not sure if there is any better than trivial for this. 
Anyway, by definition of matrix *, you need to go through one matrix many, 
many times. One such matrix takes 8 bytes per doublefloat * (10^8)^2 = 
80PB = 80000 * 1TB disk... But perhaps it could be done with tapes, I 
really don't know. I mean, without burning them.

- tape library - is made of tapes, plus enclosure (possibly hermetic) plus 
some robots inside - good if you have a Library of Congress and you want 
to count word occurance frequency. You only need to go throu the whole 
data once and you are done.

> So for yottabytes the NSA must either be thinking years in the future,
> or planning many separate but linked data centres.

Ehem, something like, say, 1000 DCs each having 1000EB capacity - and 
considering 1EB = 10^6 * 1TB, I wonder if world's combined tape production 
capacity can deliver this much - and how quickly. For perspective, before 
2011 flood in Thailand took about 1/3 of capacity, hard drive production 
was about +650 million pieces annually. So, about one data center in two 
years, assuming they all have 1TB drives and suck whole world's 
production for themselves. All in all, a hell of rare elements ore is 
needed. I mean, I guess.

Tomasz Rola

** A C programmer asked whether computer had Buddha's nature.      **
** As the answer, master did "rm -rif" on the programmer's home    **
** directory. And then the C programmer became enlightened...      **
**                                                                 **
** Tomasz Rola          mailto:tomasz_rola at bigfoot.com             **

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