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Jul 23 2008   3:19PM GMT

Oregon state data center consolidation blasted by auditors

Matt Stansberry Matt Stansberry Profile: Matt Stansberry

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Oregon is facing a data center crisis. A recent audit found that the state botched a $63.6 million state data center consolidation. While the auditors turned up several flaws — the biggest one seems to be that the new facility is already running out of room!

According to a recent Oregonian article: Officials confirmed Friday that part of the state’s data center operation — including 43 employees — has spilled over into a separate building in Salem. One agency, the Department of Consumer and Business Services, pulled out of the new 45,000-square-foot center because of insufficient power supply. Another, the Department of Education, has refused to locate its network there because of security concerns.

The project has been in the works for three years and has had five project directors since its inception. Scott Harra, director of the Department of Administrative Services inherited this nightmare and his staff is trying to consolidate servers to gain capacity. But this step is coming way too late.

Why would you plan a data center consolidation without consolidating the servers? “Instead of consolidating operations, agency servers and other computing equipment were simply picked up and moved to a new place,” The Oregonian reported.

How do you plan capacity and build a data center without looking at your server and application needs first? Why did they put all those legacy servers on a truck and plop them down in a new room instead of porting those applications to higher efficiency, virtualized machines?

And it’s not as if the planners didn’t have a clue. According to the Oregon State Data Center Website, ComputerSite Engineering reviewed the design documents and awarded the Uptime Institute’s Tier III availability standard to the initial project. The facility also applied for the US Green Building Council’s LEED rating. These folks had an ambitious plan that went awry.

According to a source near the project that asked not to be identified, the various state agencies did not want to relinquish control to a centralized project manager, but that control had to be relinquished to make the new site work. It may be that the agencies did agree to move in, but did not do any of the consolidation work normally done in conjunction with a new site. I don’t claim to understand the Byzantine inner workings of state government, but if you could shed some insight into how this might have happened (or how it could have been avoided) please leave a comment. It’s literally my tax dollars at waste.

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  • Roader
    The audit actually addressed an old plan that dates to 2004-2005, which the state revised substantially in 2006. The data center has acted on many of the concerns the audit raised, most of which involve consolidating the state’s information technology systems into a single, up-to-date and highly secure system. Prior to 2004, individual agencies ran duplicative, incompatible IT systems, without standardization of security, upgrades or customer service. Consolidating those operations is an enormously complex challenge. To be candid, the early project planners’ vision for cost savings was unrealistic. They lacked a clear understanding of several important factors. One of these is the cost to individual agencies before consolidation. Comprehensive cost records don’t exist in many cases, and agencies lacked a uniform way of recording and managing them. Consequently, we have no realistic starting point for comprehensively evaluating today’s costs against those that agencies carried prior to consolidation. Another challenge that early managers did not anticipate was the dramatic increase in demand for processing power, data storage and network services. Growth in demand has averaged 40 percent since the new State Data Center became operational, a fact that quickly made the original consolidation plan unworkable. The audit suggested—again, on the basis of the old plan—that consolidation may not achieve hoped-for savings and benefits. Though there is an extended implementation schedule, which allows development of more detailed cost information, the opportunities for savings still exist. The data center has already seen substantial savings and benefits made possible by consolidation and aggressive management. They have pre-consolidation cost records of some small agencies, and know their costs have decreased an average of 12 percent. Technological advances will bring greater savings in the future. Second, the SDC has generated huge reductions in energy consumption. Since start-up, consumption is approximately 36 percent lower than the aggregate consumption by agencies before consolidation.
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  • Aernoud
    Things are never black and white, but this example again shows that datacenter consolidation does not stop at building a new facility. You also need to look at the other side of the coin. Consolidation of IT (mostly server and storage). And don´t forget this will probably have an impact on the organization and processes as well. The organization was probably as scattered and decentralized as the datacenters were. So some of your staff may need to start looking for either a new home or a new job. And Centrlized IT needs different processes, other skills, etc. The result is more then just a condolidation or migration project. We are in most cases talking about transformation. Aernoud
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