100 datacenters here, 100 datacenters there, 1000 datacenters where?

100 datacenters here, 100 datacenters there, 1000 datacenters where?

Summary: With a short term project requiring a major federal datacenter consolidation effort, the discovery that there were twice as many datacenters involved gives a whole new meaning to "close enough for government work."

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In a story by Rutrell Yasin of Government Computer News it was reported that the US government has discovered there are almost twice as many datacenters as previously thought that will need to comply with the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative. Based on data provided by the OMB, there are 2094 datacenters to be consolidated, a significantly higher number than the 1100 initially estimated by that same agency.

I have to admit that when I read that I thought that the definition that they were using for datacenter must be rather generous, with some agencies reporting a couple of unmanaged servers sitting in an office closet as datacenter assets that need to be consolidated. But further reading found that the definition for a datacenter for the OMB means a single room of at least 500 sq. ft., dedicated to data processing, which meets one of the Uptime Institutes four Tier levels for datacenters. So we aren't talking departmental servers hiding in a closet here, but rather actual data processing facilities.

This really does seem to indicate some massive inefficiency in the data processing model used by these government agencies. And the potential for not simply the energy efficiencies demanded by the government initiative but the opportunity to revamp and streamline any number of governmental processes. But given that the OMB is scheduled to approve agency consolidation plans by December 31st it seems unlikely that given the overall short timeframe and the complexity of dealing with government culture (including the military) that the submitted plans (filed by August 30th) are little more than the simplest physical consolidation plans that could meet the guidelines laid down for the agencies.

Remembering the IRS computing upgrade fiasco of the late 20th century I would have hoped that the government had learned from its previous mistakes. But given the short timeframe and unrealistic goals of this consolidation effort, it would seem that no one was paying attention.

Topics: Storage, Data Centers, Hardware

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4 comments
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  • Why so many small datacenters, disparate systems?

    The answer to why there are so many datacenters is simple. It is people and their egos.

    Many executives and dept. managers feel that they save money and get more control, stability and security by building out small room somewhere on-site rather than outsource.

    Often, not always, this preference to keep everything "in-house", means that a corporation may end up with disparate server implementations, leading to more cost per dept and more demands of the internal IT Dept.

    Saving a corporation, or in this case a government agency, from the high-cost of disparate systems and resulting conflicts, is simple but not easy.

    Get everyone to agree to one unified core set of services and infrastructure, applications to deliver them.

    It is no easy take to get everyone in at a large corporation, let alone a government agency, to agree and then follow through on such wide sweeping issues.
    daniel.pereznet
  • RE: 100 datacenters here, 100 datacenters there, 1000 datacenters where?

    Actually, "this one size fits all" mentality does not work in any Government organization. It is a business, but the product produced is subject to various whims at an instant. So the US Forest service doing a lot of GIS mapping, surveys, field work and statistics (and lots of outside contracts to have it done) needs vastly different applications and support (and even systems) than the State Department trying working overseas and in the US in the diplomatic side of the house. So combining the US Forrest Service data center with the State Deptartment and then making the Forest Service meet the same security criteria of the State Department will lead to VAST amounts of wasted money.
    Now you also have a consolidated single point of failure. It goes down and 200 to 500 different agencies are now offline at once - vs a single agency not having any ability to work.
    Scaling up to save costs only works up one level, after that it will ALWAYS cost more than it saves in all the "hidden costs" that are NEVER put into any proposal on these types of things in Government since those items are always "out of scope" of the project. Its the way things are just done in government - see it tried 5 times so far and each time it has failed because of central command mentality and inability to be flexible (BY DESIGN). It always costs more.
    TAPhilo
    • RE: 100 datacenters here, 100 datacenters there, 1000 datacenters where?

      @TAPhilo <br><br>You make my point exactly. Disparate systems are often necessary. While it seems that there should be enough money to go around, budget is a big problem these days. It is a dilemma with problems on both fronts.<br><br>Those dept's/agencies fighting for autonomy over their own systems have viable arguments. Then there are those point at the lack of funding and work for efficient use of tax dollars. In addition, the ever-present security risk of integrating different systems not originally designed to be inter-connected.<br><br>On the other hand, having systems that fail when critically needed because someone did not bother to build in some failsafe - like at least notifying their MIS dept that "we have a mission critical function over here" is not smart <br><br>Distrust and ego's also play a big role in this issue. <br><br>Thing is, we are talking about data-centers, where numerous, vastly different systems can coexist. <br><br>Often it is not the network implementation, servers, OS, or the even database servers that have to be different. It is the engineering and application of these core technologies that can adapted to fit almost any use-case. This is where cooperation and collaboration between supposed desperate dept's and agencies can go a long way to prevent security holes, needless duplication and over-spending - without adopting a "1 size fits all" approach.<br><br>Instead of everyone spending money on their own data-centers, they could focusing on the core focus of their agency or dept.<br><br>Like I implied before - this kind of collaboration and cooperation is only possible when their is openness and trust. Do not hold your breath, waiting for that to happen.
      daniel.pereznet
  • And that number doesn't include over 400 new data centers

    There are 420 completely new facilities being built out to accommodate current and future internet monitoring, data mining, and intelligence gathering. One estimate I saw said that there were plans for 500,000 servers in these new DCs. They and the ISP colocation monitoring stations are all exempt from DCCI, as are all of the new cyberwarfare centers being planned. I wonder how many other agencies will eventually get exemptions?
    terry flores