The Raritan Blog

An Unexpected Data Center Planning Issue

Posted on December 5, 2013 by Minder Singh published a fascinating article this week, “Some NSA Opponents Want to ‘Nullify’ Surveillance With State Law”

A group called OffNow plans to turn off the water supply to the Utah Data Center being built for the NSA. Their intention is to use local community law to make life difficult for the local center. After all, when you park a data center in a county, it needs electricity, water, sewer connections, and roadways. Local governments control these services. It could be argued that local governments have less political diversity of opinion. They might be easier to sway.

OffNow’s website refers to a local water supply as the NSA’s Achilles Heel. It’s the prefect description. A massive data center could be crippled because they can’t get something as simple as a water connection. Short of trucking the water in, there’s really no way around it — they can’t lay water pipes through the county. They won’t even be able to drill a well without a local permit.

This isolated event raises the specter of political guerrilla tactics in the control of data

These days, we’re surrounded by more and more polarizing events. Now, companies and government must plan for future issues that could unite a local community or action group against their data center.

Local companies helping to build the NSA’s data center could find themselves facing a boycott. But this kind of action likely won’t stop there. Consider how OffNow’s actions could inform other action groups:

  • An online furrier hosted in a particular data center could lead to action against that center
  • Political candidates could come under attack. Most don’t even know where their data is hosted
  • Energy companies, foreign governments, all must consider where their data is hosted and the possible implications

Just when you thought data center planning couldn’t get any more complicated.


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