Thursday, October 10, 2013

Camelot! No longer just a model

The CBC's Greg Weston has put together a nice introduction to CSE's nearly complete new headquarters complex ("Inside Canada's top-secret billion-dollar spy palace," CBC News, 8 October 2013).

There's video as well, but I think the text is probably the most informative part.

A couple of comments:
CSEC officially estimates the complex will cost $880 million. But sources close to the project say it will be closer to $1.2 billion by the time all the associated costs are tallied.
Another source that says that the price tag will be closer to $1.2 billion is the Public Accounts of Canada 2012, which puts the total estimated cost of the project at $1.170 billion (p. 11.17). It is not clear, however, whether this estimate includes the $70 million or so spent on the first building built at the site, the Mid-Term Accommodation Project (now known as Pod 1 of the complex), which was constructed under a separate contract and completed in 2011.
The nerve centre of the agency is a separate concrete bunker the size of a football field, home to what is being touted as the most powerful super-computer in the country, along with its mammoth electrical power generators and cooling systems.
The "bunker", I am guessing, will actually host CSE's data warehouse, which will be the Canadian equivalent of the NSA's Utah Data Center but perhaps one-fifth its size. They're going to be able to store a LOT of data in there.

The supercomputers, I think, are in Pod 1.

In practice, of course, the division may not be quite as clearcut as that. The data warehouse may also be designed to do a lot of processing of the data for CSE, and if that's the case, then it might well qualify as the most powerful computer in the country.

You can see a series of photos of the complex under construction and my accompanying comments here.

I would welcome reader contributions to the further analysis of these buildings and the systems they will host.

Some other interesting tidbits in Weston's report:
When fully operational, the data centre alone will apparently suck up enough electricity to light much of the nation’s capital.

Adams says a lack of electrical and computing power is the main reason the agency is having to move from its current location in south Ottawa, a cluster of buildings dating back to the 1960s, the main one previously occupied by the CBC.

He says the agency’s existing computers could only run at 60 per cent capacity without overloading the local power grid.

CSEC also needs about three times more computing power than it has, plus a full backup, Adams says. “There are more transactions at CSEC on a daily basis than all of our banks combined.”

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