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Tornado Risk Seen For Social Security Data Center

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the quasi-funded-mandate dept.

Government 67

1sockchuck writes "Despite the recent outbreak of powerful tornadoes, the Social Security Administration has decided to engineer its new data center to withstand winds of just 90 miles per hour. Data center experts say mission-critical facilities should be built to withstand winds of 120 to 180 miles per hour to protect against tornado and hurricane risks. It's the latest in a series of challenges for the $800 million project, which will replace a creaky 30-year old facility."

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67 comments

Put it in the cloud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36334298)

Except, call it the "Dust Cloud"

I'll stop by to collect my part of the $800 million.

Quick Summary: (1)

CaptainPatent (1087643) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334300)

Even the new Social Security facilities are gonna blow.

2nd independence day (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36334326)

The day social security fails will be a new independence day for America.

Re:2nd independence day (2)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334416)

For whom? Not everyone lives on a trust fund.

Re:2nd independence day (1)

baldass_newbie (136609) | more than 3 years ago | (#36335530)

Not everyone lives on a trust fund.

Doesn't matter. It's going to be insolvent in 25 years. As a matter of fact, the whole US Government will be underwater by then barring real reform of SS and Medicare/Medicaid.
This building getting hit by a twister is the least of anyone's worries.

Re:2nd independence day (1)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | more than 3 years ago | (#36337944)

At the rate the sky is falling, we'll never have to worry about any of this.

why not a dome? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36334330)

Uh, Monolithic concrete dome anyone? It will surpass 120-180mph winds with ease....

Concrete and rebar aren't rocket science. (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334334)

Build a bunker, large version. It isn't fucking difficult, bunkers are thermally efficient, and they can shrug off storms.

Re:Concrete and rebar aren't rocket science. (1)

timepilot (116247) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334712)

but not flooding.

Re:Concrete and rebar aren't rocket science. (1)

cold fjord (826450) | more than 3 years ago | (#36335008)

That's why you don't build critical facilities in the floodplain, and are wary of coast lines, volcanoes, and fault lines.

A little thought about truck bombs and other terrorist means would also be nice.

Re:Concrete and rebar aren't rocket science. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36335680)

Yucca Mountain

Re:Concrete and rebar aren't rocket science. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36335744)

They have some leftovers from the cold war. Those nuke silos didn't go anywhere, and from what I understand they're pretty solid. Instead of selling them all off, the government should utilize its internal exchange program to utilize in-house assets.

As long as the backup generators are working and sump pumps are in good order, an old nuke silo is likely one of the best places to store electronic records. A tornado comes, you just close the vent hatches on top and continue with business as usual.

Re:Concrete and rebar aren't rocket science. (1)

Glendale2x (210533) | more than 3 years ago | (#36335926)

Why not just build it somewhere that doesn't have tornadoes instead?

Re:Concrete and rebar aren't rocket science. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36338248)

Such as Springfield, Mass, perhaps?

Location Redundancy? (4, Insightful)

bflong (107195) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334336)

Don't they have geographically disperse redundant data centers to avoid an issue like a tornado taking them completely down?

Re:Location Redundancy? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334492)

Don't they have geographically disperse redundant data centers to avoid an issue like a tornado taking them completely down?

What? Backups? Are you serious?

Re:Location Redundancy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36334562)

Hey, they need backup's, what can moronic carrier loose on a train otherwise?!

Re:Location Redundancy? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36334666)

Hey, they need backup's, what can moronic carrier loose on a train otherwise?!

ENGLISH, motherfucker. DO YOU SPEAK IT?

Re:Location Redundancy? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36335236)

What?

--Brad

They meant 90 mph winds from politicians (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36335030)

That 90 mph wind is from the politicians, inside the buildings. Of course they'll have better external wind protection.

Re:Location Redundancy? (1)

baegucb (18706) | more than 3 years ago | (#36335196)

I deal with SSA fairly often. I think they might have another facility in Illinois. At least that's where the calls went to on a couple of occasions when we lost connectivity, and I had to chase down the reason. These are mainframes using VTAM btw.

Re:Location Redundancy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36335694)

Old-fashioned secure and reliable technology like ye olde traditional IBM mainframe??? They need to get with program - replace it with shiploads of glommed-together differing sorta-semi-mature spagetti technologies, using at least a dozen or so of the very latest developmental methodologies - LOTS of business opportunites that way! Not to mention security - they'll have to hire enough security techies to rescue the nation from recession!

Re:Location Redundancy? (1)

GrumblyStuff (870046) | more than 3 years ago | (#36335854)

Don't worry! A tornado will ensure any data center will become geographically dispersed!

why not build it under ground or at least put the (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334342)

why not build it under ground or at least put the severs at a lower level or in shipping crates like the MS data centers. Any ways a big storm likely will cut power / data lines and a on site power generator will need to have the fuel to last in less it's natural gas powered.

Trailers (2)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334378)

They should put it in a double-wide [hubpages.com] and get 140 MPH rating. Seriously, 90 MPH is nothing. That's just a bad thunderstorm. I just can't even envision what sort of construction would not be able to withstand 90 MPH except for possibly an un-anchored camping tent.

Re:Trailers (3, Informative)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334752)

Modern building engineering, everything is down to actual location, including surrounding buildings and geography. To say you are designing to 90 miles an hour doesn't mean much and is likely taken out of context. Now days thanks to computers each elevation is designed separately as well as taking into account different loading at different locations on the building, be it the apex the eaves, mid point of the building etc. Now add to this safety factors which is added on top of environmental conditions, based upon use and life of building and are built into the calculations to be used.

So commentary upon building engineering by a computer expert (definitely a drip under pressure) who knows little to nothing about building design.

Realistically though any Federal infrastructure should be evenly distributed between states with each state facility acting as backup for adjoining the states and of course fairly distributing the income from Federal spending. The big cost with these facilities is not data storage, but data input and output ie people at keyboards. Replicating the data stored fifty times really doesn't add that much cost. The extra cost of fifty data centres tends to balance out because there are plenty of existing buildings near state capitals that can be fitted out, employees are far more accessible and infrastructure design becomes much simpler (great system redundancy).

stick it in Yucca Mountain (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334388)

Then all you have to worry about are data leaks.

However, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36334396)

collecting Social Security and Disability will still be as hard to get gold out of Ft. Knox.

Die Hard 4 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36334398)

Just have Justin Long secure the Woodlawn data center.

mirror the backups somewhere else (1)

bl8n8r (649187) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334422)

assuming they have backups. 

Re:mirror the backups somewhere else (1)

OFnow (1098151) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334474)

Assuming they ever check to make sure the backups work.

what a joke. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36334442)

soooo im sure theyll consider what happens if the power goes out from the tornado or they can't get fresh water..... just kidding. no they wont.

just close the social security administration down and give me my money back.

Huff and puff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36334448)

Sounds like it was designed by the three little pigs

The should re-purpose old missle bases (3, Insightful)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334476)

http://www.missilebases.com/properties [missilebases.com]

Dig the one with 45,000 sq ft. No worry about wind velocity here.

Re:The should re-purpose old missle bases (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36335040)

Good luck cooling all those computers in the middle of a giant bunker.

Re:The should re-purpose old missle bases (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36336272)

Good luck cooling all those computers in the middle of a giant bunker.

Did you think about that for even a fraction of a second?

Here's some hints:

Underground

Water Table

Heat Exchangers
---

Think hard, now.

Designed to fail (1)

wshs (602011) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334478)

If it's designed to fail, it means someone is going to get repeat business.

Center??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36334480)

There are Federal buildings all over the place. Why not rack up some redundant data centers? All we need now is for some alien to plug a Mac into our single point of failure and type furiously. The entire country will explode in 3d surround sound.

the hack takes the shields down (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334546)

the hack takes the shields down still need a bomb or missiles to blow the ship up.

Someone wants to prove something (1)

Gonoff (88518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334506)

The only obvious explanation to me is that someone wants to prove that they do not believe in any sort of climate change.
Someone should check. Someone somewhere may be a patsy for some industry that is a known producer of greenhouse gas or something...

Re:Someone wants to prove something (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36334564)

What's climate change got to do with it? We've had occasional severe weather for centuries, 90mph is not a sane design criterion for mission-critical facilities in our current or near-past climate, especially on the hurricane coast -- if anything, I'd say they're betting their datacenter on climate change, though change of a rather mysterious and benevolent sort.

No, I'd guess it's some sort of cost-control (I don't say cutting) measure, either because their intended 120-mph design turned out to be flawed, and they moved the target instead of redesigning, or (cynically) because it will let them blow more of the earmark on coke and hookers

Other headlines could have been: (1)

billrp (1530055) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334600)

"SSA Moves to Cloud Computing", "SSA Outsources Operations to ", "SSA Decides to go NoSQL", "SSA Goes to HDFS"

Mission critical? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36334616)

Reading "mission critical" and "Social Security Administration" in the same paragraph is depressing. Have we fallen that far under the boot?

Tornadoes aren't the only possible damage (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334644)

Is it built to withstand or prevent anything like another one of these [wikipedia.org] and/or are the offices in it prepared to quickly recover from such an event?

Tornado Risk To Homes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36334702)

Who cares about the banks, what about the homes actually being destroyed?

30? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36334742)

Only 30 years old? That's not old for a building. We're talking 1981.

Don't worry (1, Insightful)

argoff (142580) | more than 3 years ago | (#36335286)

The risk of the ponzi scheme going to hell is 1000 time's greater than the risk of a tornado.

Re:Don't worry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36335406)

A single line of non-useful cynicism! Once again it's clear that THAT'S how you pick up points here on Slashdot!

Re:Don't worry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36335672)

a single line of non-useful kneejerk defense of some self-implied-relevant political ideology!

Re:Don't worry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36335552)

yes and airplane accident are few and far between but would you like to be on that 1 in a 1000?

Re:Don't worry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36336288)

If you think Social Security is Ponzi, then you must also think that all government finance is Ponzi, because they are the same. And if you think that's the case, you must think all debt financing is Ponzi, since no private organization has the power to tax and is thus even less likely to be able to pay its debts than a state.

Re:Don't worry (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36336446)

The risk of the ponzi scheme going to hell is 1000 time's greater than the risk of a tornado.

You haven't been watching the weather, have you? Every once in a while you should pull your head out of your navel and look around. There's more to life than cubicle and basement.

Designed to Code (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36335408)

A 90 mph wind speed (3-second gust wind speed at 33' for Exposure Category C) is the standard design for structures located inland in the US, see the International Building Code (IBC) and ASCE 7 wind maps. There is a lot more to the design for wind than just the wind speed as well, like how important your facility is, how exposed to wind is it, how tall it is, what the shape of the roof is, etc. Tornado design for a facility like that would be a concrete box (due to the projectiles and rapid pressure changes) with no windows and a really heavy door or really heavy grating screens; the wind gust is not too much higher either (I think it is 120-140 mph with additional pressure and several types of projectiles).

Why build a new facility? (1)

egburr (141740) | more than 3 years ago | (#36335472)

Isn't social security going to be bankrupt within 20 years, anyway?

Re:Why build a new facility? (2)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 3 years ago | (#36336736)

Its like Nuclear Fusion.. Its been 20 years in the future for the last 30 years.

Disaster plan anyone? (1)

tchdab1 (164848) | more than 3 years ago | (#36335478)

Or is their plan a disaster?

Specifying the design of a building shouldn't be done in a vacuum (!).
They should estimate how soon that center needs to be back online (to service local centers, I imagine) if it gets taken out, how much it will cost (to them or their clients) if it is not back online on time, how much extra it will cost to harden or duplicate the center, how often they expect a disaster that could take out the center, etc.

And if experts say they should build for 120 - 180 mph winds (given all the needs) and they don't, there's a problem.
Is someone wishing that social security would just go away so it wouldn't have to be paid for anymore (so the money could be funneled to someone else's pockets)? Would a major disaster argue for scrapping a system that could be spun as ineffective?
That might be a political problem, not an IT or architectural or even financial problem.

Who cares about Tornados... (2)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 3 years ago | (#36335592)

...Congress has done far more damage to that particular administration than any natural disaster ever could.

As far as I'm concerned, don't even bother replacing the old building. It won't need to exist much longer at this rate of insanity within the political realm.

National Data Backup Center (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36335764)

Let's just hope they built the National Data Backup Center in Woodlawn, MD [wikipedia.org] to better specifications.

Do the math (2)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 3 years ago | (#36335936)

This question got me curious, so I did a little homework. What are the odds of a building in Maryland being struck by a tornado during its lifetime?

Found an AMAZING website: The Tornado History Project [tornadohis...roject.com] , which has statistics for all recorded tornadoes in the U.S., integrated with Google Maps and with a spreadsheet export function. So I grabbed the stats for every historical tornado in Maryland, used the site's track width and length data to find out the area of land affected by each one, and added them all up. The usual caveats about rounding error, reporting bias, etc. apply.

The result: about 43 square km of Maryland has been hit by tornados in the last 60 years. The area of Maryland [wolframalpha.com] is 32,000 km^2, so the odds of a random patch of land in Maryland being hit by a tornado are roughly 1 in 750.

Is this risk high enough to be worth redesigning the building for? I guess it depends on the consequences of loss. It's not a negligible risk, but if the data is backed up elsewhere, I wouldn't worry about it myself. I can think of plenty of [visitthecapitol.gov] other [loc.gov] buildings [osd.mil] in the area whose loss would be more of a concern.

Do the math. (1)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 3 years ago | (#36335944)

This question got me curious, so I did a little homework. What are the odds of a building in Maryland being struck by a tornado during its lifetime?

Found an AMAZING website: The Tornado History Project [tornadohis...roject.com] , which has statistics for all recorded tornadoes in the U.S., integrated with Google Maps and with a spreadsheet export function. So I grabbed the stats for every historical tornado in Maryland, used the site's track width and length data to find out the area of land affected by each one, and added them all up. The usual caveats about rounding error, reporting bias, etc. apply.

The result: about 43 square km of Maryland has been hit by tornados in the last 60 years. The area of Maryland [wolframalpha.com] is 32,000 km^2, so the odds of a random patch of land in Maryland being hit by a tornado over a 60-year period are roughly 1 in 750. (60 years happens to be roughly the useful life of your average building.)

Is this risk high enough to be worth redesigning the building for? I guess it depends on the consequences of loss. It's not a negligible risk, but if the data is backed up elsewhere, I wouldn't worry about it myself. I can think of plenty of [visitthecapitol.gov] other [loc.gov] buildings [osd.mil] in the area whose loss would be more of a concern.

Re:Do the math. (1)

exabytes18 (2230820) | more than 3 years ago | (#36336212)

Murphy's Law dictates otherwise. Despite your "math," there's going to be a tornado.

Re:Do the math. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36336428)

Murphy's Law dictates otherwise. Despite your "math," there's going to be a tornado.

Fined 2 points for a horribly wrong use of the phrase "Murphy's Law"

1pt because you incorrectly cite Murphy's instead of Finagle's
1pt because a tornado hitting has nothing to do with either.

-@|

Not surprised (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | more than 3 years ago | (#36336186)

Back in 1995 or so I did a project in the PA data center replacing Token Ring (!) with Ethernet cabling, along with some other stuff. The building was essentially 3 stories of brick. It was in an area that wouldn't be prone to tornadoes, being amidst several hills and mountains, but hurricane Agnes did quite a job on the area back in '72. While do that project, I got to deal with some of the facilities people, and let's just say that I was a bit underwhelmed by them.

So I'm not surprised that 1) They'll screw up the new facility, and 2) It costs so much.

Re:Not surprised (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | more than 3 years ago | (#36336192)

Sorry, typo- it was back in 1998 into 1999.

TEPCO ???? "dog ate it" excuses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36336278)

SSA management has TEPCO retreads or TEPCO tryouts ? This sounds like the ultimate "my dog ate my homework" excuse preparation for when Social Security gets broke enough.

115 MPH STRAIGHT-LINE WINDS (1)

AlienIntelligence (1184493) | more than 3 years ago | (#36336414)

I've personally witnessed all of the types of destructive
http://www.windlegends.org/windnames.htm [windlegends.org]
winds. Front row to over a dozen hurricanes, all the way
up to 5. Seen a handful of twisters and waterspouts...

http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/psr/general/history/ [noaa.gov]

... and I've seen many haboobs and the winds that
are associated with it. If you aren't planning on high
speed straight-line winds, you're just too stupid to be
in the business of planning.

"Peak wind gusts of up to 115 mph were measured at the Deer Valley Airport, and the storm caused over 160 million dollars of damage over several west valley cities, including Buckeye. The measured speed of 115 mph set the all time peak gust record record for Phoenix, as well as for the entire state of Arizona!

It should be noted that macroburst winds, unlike tornadic winds, are STRAIGHT-LINE winds - they do not contain strong rotation such as would be observed with the passing of a tornado. These strong winds descend from the lower levels of a thunderstorm, then hit the ground and spread outwards, moving in a straight line."

-AI

This is perfect.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36337512)

When it gets hit and knocked down then they have an excuse as to why SS has no money. And that'd obviously be better than the excuse they tried to use about WTC building 7 (deleting the ongoing investigation into the "trillion dollar bet" (google it and read the transcript) proof of reason for 9/11.. that is until its found out about HAARP weather wars...

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