Data center facilities pro

Feb 24 2010   11:16AM GMT

Michigan data center director: California can do it

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

This week I talked to Carol Sherman, data center director for the state of Michigan, about California’s data center consolidation plan. In a story I wrote about the California consolidation, I raised the question of whether the project is feasible, especially in the tight timeline Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wants.

A quick summary of the project: California has about 400,000 square feet of data center space in some 400 facilities. Schwarzenegger wants that cut 25% by this July, and 50% by July 2011.

Sherman thinks it’s doable, and people should listen. Not only has Michigan done a data center consolidation of its own — merging 38 data centers to three — it was Teri Takai, then Michigan’s CIO and now the California CIO, who led the project.

“I think she can, absolutely,” Sherman said. “I would say it was a large project for us, but I would do it again at the drop of a hat. We definitely saved a lot of money and got our data centers in a lot better shape, and she’ll do the same there.”

Sherman said one of the biggest issues of the consolidation was overcoming the anxiety of agencies’ losing ownership of their servers. What they did was invite all the agency directors to one of the IT department’s “professionally run” data centers, and then showed them their own facilities and gave them a risk assessment.

“They couldn’t get in line fast enough to have their stuff moved,” she said.

The IT department also gave the agencies free server hosting for a year, so it wouldn’t be a budget issue for them. In fact, the IT department was saving other agencies money during that first year, because they didn’t have to take on the operations and maintenance costs of running the servers themselves.

However, the Michigan data center consolidation took four years. California’s consolidation is about 10 times as large, with a shorter projected timeline. Sherman said that once the agencies signed on, they still had to schedule their migrations. There is a lot of time involved in the migrations, she added, including a lot of planning and time for doing the actual moves.

That said, because California is such a big state, perhaps it has a lot more low-hanging fruit that it can pick to reach those 25% and 50% goals. It all remains to be seen, and is something to keep and eye on for sure.

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