"Every Problem Imaginable"

Twenty years ago, the Tennessee state government built a 70,000 square-foot data center in a location that now appears to have a few problems. What kind of problems, you ask?

Twenty years ago, the Tennessee state government built a 70,000 square-foot data center in a location that now appears to have a few problems. What kind of problems, you ask? Well, here’s what Computerworld has to say on the matter:

The state located its data center on top of unstable, jiggly ground near a railroad and in a floodplain. [Ed. note: the location is near the Tennessee Bicentennial Mall.] Twenty years later, the data center’s floor is cracking, and part of the facility is sinking, and Tennessee plans to spend $68 million to build two new data centers — each located on high, dry and stable ground.
And state officials had better hurry.
In addition to its internal woes, the existing data center is located downstream from the Wolf Creek Dam, a 5,700-foot structure located on the Cumberland River in Jamestown, Ky. In a report released in April, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers identified Wolf Creek — which holds back the largest reservoir in the U.S. east of the Mississippi River — as one of the five dams nationwide at most risk of failing. In fact, Wolf Creek was at the top of the list.
The current data center has “almost every problem imaginable,” said Mark Bengle, Tennessee’s deputy CIO. “The standards that it was built to 20 years ago are certainly not the standards that we would build a data center to today.”

According to knoxnews.com, some areas of the datacenter are “too unstable for storing heavy computer equipment.” Well, I guess that counts for one big “oops.”

Tennessee released an RFP requesting assistance to help with the relocation. From the RFP:

The State of Tennessee presently operates a single main Data Center and is in the process of consolidating agency servers and applications into that center. There are over 1200 applications running on an IBM mainframe, distributed Intel, and UNIX platforms (approximately 100 servers). See the chart at the end of this document for application counts and disaster recovery timeframe requirements. The applications provide services to the Agencies of State government ranging from e-mail and payroll to specific health information, to safety, child care, etc. systems. As such they vary in criticality and demand differing levels of performance and availability. The State’s Metropolitan Area Network supports 15,000 users and the WAN supports 40,000 users across the State.

Although this huge problem sounds like the definition of incompetence in action, that’s actually not the case. In fact, data center design standards have changed over the last twenty years. Unfortunately, current Tennessee IT management have inherited this problem and must now deal with it.

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