NSA to store yottabytes in Utah data centre

US surveillance spooks at the National Security Agency are working on a data centre in the Utah desert that could potentially hold yottabytes of data. What-a-byte? We're glad you asked

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The National Security Agency is building a data centre that could potentially hold yottabytes of data. A what-a-byte? A yottabyte. As well as scoring 17 points in Scrabble, a yottabyte is equal to 1,000,000,000,000,000GB. We don't know how to even say that out loud.

The New York Review of Books discusses the data centre in a review of The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency by Matthew M Aid. Aid was an Air Force NCO thrown in jail and kicked out for nicking assorted NSA secrets. The NSA is a US government surveillance agency that is supposedly limited to monitoring foreign communications, and the book follows the development of communications monitoring and cryptology from the Second World War to the present day, when new data centres are built in Utah and Texas. Perhaps we should be talking about Utah-bytes...

Let's break this down:
1,000 gigabytes is a terabyte.
1,000 terabytes is a petabyte.
1,000 petabytes is an exabyte.
1,000 exabytes is a zettabyte.
1,000 zettabytes is a yottabyte.

To manage that kind of data, the NSA will presumably be using some seriously future-ass storage. Maybe it should get Philippe Starck involved.

Here are some more eye-watering numbers, concerning the data centre being built in the Utah desert: it will be a million square feet and costs $2bn, with an electricity bill the size of Salt Lake City's.

Our question is what comes after yottabyte? We suggest the normanhunterbyte. What's a normanhunterbyte? Your legs.