NSA Data Faster Than a Physics Digit

Northrop Grumman recently won a National Security Agency information management and data services contract, which will allow the agency to ingest data at a speed faster than any other entity that the company knows on the planet.

Kevin Henderson, chief systems engineer for the information management and data services project, declined to provide any speed benchmarks for me but said the system would outperform those used for high-energy physics computations, which does provide a good baseline to work from.

In 2005 a team from the Energy Department's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford Linear Accelerator Center transferred physics data at the rate of 150 gigabits per second, or the equivalent of downloading 130 DVD movies in one minute. The NSA system supposedly can work faster than that.

Such blistering data transfer rates of electronics signals intelligence will require storage measured in the petabyte (a quadrillion bytes) range, Henderson said. Northrop Grumman will provide that through disk- and tape-based storage systems, with an eye to nanotechnology-based systems when and if that becomes available.

Loren Ryder, Northrop Grumman’s program manager for the NSA job, said agency analysts will not have to sift through petabytes of data to do their job. The company, he said, has developed an information management system to send the right data, to the right analyst, at the right time.

I understand that Lockheed Martin and EDO also bid on the NSAQ contract.