Friday, February 6, 2009

DataMineUs Expandamundo

Thousands losing their jobs, the housing market collapsing, schools losing funding, funds drying up for medical research, families going hungry ... but for the data gatherer-collector-cruncher-storers, times are a 'boomin'.

No longer able to store all the intercepted phone calls and e-mail in its secret city, the agency has now built a new data warehouse in San Antonio, Texas,” writes author James Bamford in the Shadow Factory, his third book about the NSA. Costing, with renovations, upwards of $130 million, the 470,000-square-foot facility will be almost the size of the Alamodome. Considering how much data can now be squeezed onto a small flash drive, the new NSA building may eventually be able to hold all the information in the world.

So just what will be going on inside the NSA’s new San Antonio facility? Bamford describes former NSA Director Mike Hayden’s goals for the data-mining center as knowing “exactly what Americans were doing day by day, hour by hour, and second by second. He wanted to know where they shopped, what they bought, what movies they saw, what books they read, the toll booths they went through, the plane tickets they purchased, the hotels they stayed in… In other words, Total Information Awareness, the same Orwellian concept that John Poindexter had tried to develop while working for the Pentagon’s [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency].


Bamford suggests that “it seemed the NSA wanted assurance Microsoft would be here, too, before making a final commitment” to locate its new facility in San Antonio. The reason would obviously have to do with “the advantages of having their miners virtually next door to the mother lode of data centers”. This way, “under current law, NSA could gain access to Microsoft’s stored data without even a warrant, but merely a fiber-optic cable.”[2]

Not to be outdone, a huge, 60-acre, $35 million data center linked to is under construction at a secluded site along the Columbia River near Boardman, Oregon. (Another data center is already there in the Columbia basin--Google's--"with 200 staff and contract workers at its massive computer complex in The Dalles. Google refused to comment on its project during construction and still provides little information about its operation in The Dalles." Computer equipment alone is estimated to cost $100 million.[3]

The exact number of Google-Server-Farms is a well-kept secret. Some experts believe that there are seven, others are convinced that the company maintains twenty-five. Christoph Pichler, an internet-marketing expert at CPC-Consulting, has found a map of all of Google’s data centers on Pingdom. It shows a world-map with publicized locations of the individual server farms. Overall, there appear to be 36, of which 12 are in Europe. [see map][4]

It strikes me as ironic that affordable healthcare and housing, funds to provide quality education, money for infrastructure repair, and jobs are steadily disappearing, while these megacomplex datafarms continue to proliferate.

Massive amounts of energy are needed to ensure that these "farms" can continue to cultivate and harvest data, to feed all those hungry customers clamoring for more, more, more, more and yet MORE information. Information gathering, sorting, analysing, compacting, packaging, and processing to be archived and/or sold. More! More! Bigger bins of info! We need bigger bins, we need more processors! More centers! Bigger Warehouses!

Kinda makes yer head spin. I had never heard the term "datafarm" before today. (The word "farm" to me conjures up pictures of small, sustainable plots of land tilled by farmers with calouses on their hands from working the earth to feed the family. The farms have gotten bigger, -- enormous in fact--and a farm subsidy industry thrives, millions going to the largest and wealthiest while the small, independent farmers struggle to keep afloat. Imagine now a series of large farms strategically situating themselves near and extracting massive amounts of energy from the nation's dwindling energy resources,to produce, not food for consumption, but Data.

--According to data from the 2007 Census of Agriculture just released, "Oregon is reporting a smaller number of farms and a slight decrease in the size of those farms."

--On Dec. 13, 2007, Oregon announced it consolidated 11 power-hungry data centers into the Oregon State Data Center (SDC), an energy-efficient facility located in Salem.

Bye bye little farms. Hello megadata centers.

Hey, perhaps Monsanto could jump on the bandwagon and partner with these datafarms to produce genetically modified biodata seeds to grow edible plants (also available in pill form from BigBigPharma), that when ingested, allow one to get back lost memories, or--when the country's colleges and universities start going bankupt and have to close their doors, provide immediately accessible blocks of condensed knowledge (4 years of college, in a handy digestible zip-chip) for instant academic apprehension.

Think about it--everything you ever wanted to know about--EVERYTHING!--available in an edible house plant or chewable tablet (for a steep price, of course--you didn't think this would actually be free, did you?--and only as a rental--you could never actually "own" it, so forget about looking into franchising). And it would only be available from a certified Master Data Plant Seed Distributor or Data Pill Supplier with whose organization you must be a member (only if your application is approved, though, after consulting the NDACD--National Datatorium on All Citizens Database). (Did I mention the effects are short-lasting? This is to ensure your return business, again and again and again.).

Story writer gets carried away with ideas dropping down from the Possibilities Unlimited Cloud.

Harvesters of words
come see the Data Repository
words written, words referenced
words accidently blurted out
or spoken in confidence
secret words, code words, forbidden words
words mixed with numbers
number codes, number sequences,
telephone numbers
threads, parameters, algorythms
images, pixels, pomengranates
addresses, medical records
credit reports
financial disclosures
For Your Eyes Only
Confidential, Do not publish
threads and wires and tunes
personal reflections
unguarded interjections
from brilliant to buffoon

Information overload!!!
Gluttanubius Profitabilius
more data harvesters needed
apply now, hurry up, become a
Master of Information
Cloud Manager
(or join the Security Patrol)
help us bring data
to the hungry
the merely curious
the Yes-We-Need-To-Know-Now people
one for all and all for us
Call NOW
(paranoidals need not apply)

Often overlooked in the excitement about ever more advanced data centers is that their energy requirements are enormous.

Hey, I didn't know before that the Lone State has its own power grid. (Only three big electrical grids in the U.S.: The "Eastern" one, the "Western" one, and the "Texas" one. The Texas one is exempt from most regulation by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.[6] Might explain the choice of that state for the big new NSA datafarm. Cheaper, lots of land, less regulation. Yes. Makes sense.

Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and the NSA aren't the only megagroup entities heading cloudward:

IBM Wednesday opened four new cloud computing centers in emerging markets. They’re in Sao Paulo, Brazil; Bangalore, India; Seoul, Korea; and Hanoi, Vietnam. That brings the number of IBM cloud centers worldwide to 13. The company brags that it’s got “the world’s largest network of expertise on cloud computing....IBM has dedicated more than 200 full-time researchers and announced a $100 million investment in cloud computing...Earlier this year it established Europe’s first Cloud Computing Center in Dublin; a center in Beijing; one in Johannesburg; one in Tokyo; and one in Raleigh, North Carolina.[7]

And this just in from the Virtualization News Desk: The Department of Defense has also developed its own cloud.) Hmmm.

As admitted in a previous blogpost, cloud computing is a whole new terminology for me. Perhaps I should try to go to the Cloud Computing Expo this March in New York City (the "Second International" one) where I can learn how to "Triumph over the Recession: Connect yourself to the Cloud!" or discover how to go "Deploying into the Clouds", "On the Path to Cloud Nirvana" to connect up with "The Worldwide Cloud" and understand "Cloud Storage" so that I will begin "Trusting the Cloud". (These are some of the actual titled topics of conferences to be offered at the Expo, by the way; I didn't just make them up.)

Or maybe I could attend the Cloud Computing Bootcamp.

My head is in the clouds today, sorry, Readers (all two of you!). It never ceases to amaze me how abysmally Little I know about so many, many things. Cloud computing happens to be one of them. Until a few days ago if you had mentioned "cloud computing" or "data farm" to me, I'd have had no clue what you were talking about. But thanks to Google (whom I don't entirely trust) I now know at least to what these terms refer.

Actually, my concern lies not so much with mega corporations becoming super-super-Super megacorps (although that's unnerving in its own right) as it is with the seemingly systematic elbowing out of small sustainable farms while valuable energy resources are increasingly being monopolized, scooped up and controlled by corporate entities whose primary motive is essentially power and profit. It is not inconceivable that one day in the not-too-distant future, we might all be issued shiny new SmartWaterCards, to swipe at public water vending machines (you would have to supply your own jug or bucket, of course) because water will no longer be "free").

[Stop already. Put it in a sci fi story.] ha ha.

[Blogablonkitis Interruptus. Exit the Cloud. This. Does. Not. Com. Pute.]

[First two graphics thanks to They ask that I mention them.]

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