Planning a datacenter? Learn from Washington’s mistakes.

Planning a datacenter? Learn from Washington’s mistakes.

Summary: When you're spending the taxpayer's money, you should be more careful.


A few years back the state of Washington decided to leap onto the virtualization and consolidation bandwagon. Plans were made to move to a more virtualized computing environment, 40 some existing server facilities were slated to be consolidated, and a brand new 50,000 square foot datacenter was designed in as part of a new, $255 million, state office complex.

Fast forward a few years and the four data halls in the new datacenter remain unfinished.  Only two of the 12,000 sq ft halls are ready for occupancy, and the State of Washington, which has decided they will need only a single hall, is deep into a search for customers willing to lease up to 30,000 sq ft of datacenter space that they find to be currently unnecessary.

This shouldn’t come as a shock to state lawmakers; almost two years ago a report from an external IT auditing firm came to the conclusion that if the state's consolidation, virtualization, and cloud computing plans came to fruition, the datacenter space requirement could be as little as 6000 sq ft. Just one half of one of the four data halls being built.

Understandably, the report was not well received. When it hit the news the official response from the state was that the datacenter wouldn’t fit the current needs of the state, if moved into a single facility, and that the process to move to the virtualized and cloud based services would take significant time.

The reality has proven otherwise, however.  Consolidation has proceeded apace, with some 25 of the 40 existing facilities migrated, and the state now believes that they will need all of one data hall and possibly as much as half of a second when the consolidation is complete. Which is why they are looking for tenants for the large amount of unused space they find themselves saddled with.

The government IT department started talking about leasing potential unused space to third-parties when the story first broke in January 2011. Yet 18 months later the space sits unused and a broker is trying to find a tenant or two that can fill the space and, maybe not make the state look so foolish.

 It’s not just that the facility was overbuilt in the first place, a decision process that should be thoroughly investigated, but that even with the foreknowledge that 60% of the datacenter space would be available for lease, nothing seems to have been done ahead of the opening of the facility to ensure that the space would simply not go to waste.  Perhaps this should just be considered an excellent example of a project that was built with other people’s money and with no consequences if more was spent than should have been.




Topics: Data Centers, Government

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  • Washington state has horrible management from their pathetic governor

    on down. They have bloated their state employees sector so irresponsibly and have one of the most inept state (and federal for that matter) legislators you could imagine. Why wouldn't they just get MS to set them up a private cloud in their quincy data center (which the state also f'd up). Oh yeah because then they'd have to find something else for their IT to do since lord knows theyd never trim any staff. Their fiscal management record is abysmal. They had numerous chances to fix it and no one had any balls, they were all panderers. They really need to put in a balanced budget amendment. This fiasco is not even the tip of the iceberg
    Johnny Vegas
    • Wow.

      I do expect trolls here on ZD Net, but not Tea Party trolls. Sorry if Washington doesn't live up to your expectations. Feel free to not live here.
      • Not sure where youre going with this but it has nothing to do with the

        tea party. The ineptitude predates the voter fraud that seated Gregoire, predates the a**hat Locke, and goes back decades. These clowns couldn't balance a budget even with booming tech, aerospace, and agricultural sectors. From asinine light rail boondoggles to loosing their nba team to growing the public sector in an economic turndown they have shown their cluelessness across the entire spectrum of issues. Theyre lucky MS hasn't pulled out of there. I'm sure Boeing is continuing to look elsewhere for all future plant openings. And yes Im happy I am free not to live there.
        Johnny Vegas
        • The same indolent and incompetent sector that gave YOU the very same

          internet that allows you to bestow your freedom of speech?

          I mean, if we're all supposed to blindly bow to the rich without any context or reasoning (e.g. ethics, or lack thereof, redistribution of wealth from worker to employer, etc...) then we should be blindly grateful to the government for our middle class (which includes you) as well. I'm game to change if you are...
      • The tea was spiked some time ago

        First off, if it wasn't for government-created entities like the internet, these cats wouldn't be able to whine about their perceived inequities on it.

        And you're right - if they hate it here they can move. Given they don't mind taxpayers' money going to corporations that offshore jobs, they can move to the same countries and prosper at 50 cents per hour for all anyone can care anymore...
    • Why?

      "Why wouldn't they just get MS to set them up a private cloud" - maybe they needed things to actually work? The way office 365 goes right now - uptime, migration procces, tech support (omg - don't even get me started!), day-to-day admin, buggy features, etc. - i wouldn't trust MS cloud (private or public)
      • Would you trust a private company building a cloud for all?

        Would you really read all of the terms of service policies and other disclaimers, any royalties they freely take from you, etc?
    • I'm surprised you're so current on Washington politics

      Your monicker would suggest you live in Nevada.
      John L. Ries
    • Huh?

      "They have bloated their state employees sector so irresponsibly"

      If you mean "wages", then you ought to know that private and public sector wages have remained stagnant for some time, or have fallen, depending on industry...

      You do understand that corporations lobby for preference, right down to taxpayer-funded handouts? Yet you only blame government... seems a trifle excessive in terms of myopic scapegoating...

      If you want the ultimate fiscal mismanagement, and noting these had been voted along party lines, the increases to the debt ceiling between 2001 and 2006 should raise your ire, along with the spending that happened the most in the 1980s-2000s, while our own infrastructure was ignored. Have you looked at where today's spending is going, which includes the crumbling bridges and roads?
      • Here is the difference between government and private

        When a private company builds something and it fails, the investors lose their money and yes, the employees get laid off. But the damage is more limited to those directly involved. (of course this is why government bailouts of private businesses is skews the entire market)

        When the government builds something, it just never seems to go away. Once built, there are too many reputations staked on the project and it no one seems to be willing to accept that its a failure and write it off.

        Of course in business, you also see people with their reputations tied to projects but the difference is that sooner or later if it's a bad idea that isn't making money, it has to die. In government projects there is no such motivation to "turn it off".

        This is all speaking as a long time federal and then state employee, so I'm not bashing government workers. In fact, it's not really the employees fault that bad management in government doesn't have the consequences that it should.
  • Let me get it straingt

    because of computing power increase, virtualization project being ahead of time and much higher rack densities for modern servers and storage - state end up with extra datacenter facilities that it can leas out and make money. Hmmm where is the "fail" exactly?
    Oh, external IT auditing firm said they'll need 6000 sq ft and now state estimates they need 18000 sq ft - good job external IT auditing firm?
    The "fail" actually would be if they went with 6000 sq ft.
    • Because they knew more than a year ago

      that the facility would be at lest half empty and they didn't try to find a tenant until now? Or that they argued with their own consultant and are now trying to backpedal?

      Only a government agency could consider this anything other than a failure in planning.
      • Well,

        "Because they knew more than a year ago that the facility would be at lest half empty"
        Did they? A lot happened in a year - storage got much denser (SAS and performance SATA drive capacity used in performance arrays got a lot bigger).

        "they argued with their own consultant"
        And for a good reason it seems - from 6k sq ft compared with 18k - what was that consultant smoking?

        Now - i'm sure there is a lot of ass covering and finger pointing going on now; and of course this could've been planned better, but as far as a rule screwed up government projects go - this is a success: sh^$%t works from what i can tell from article - it just a lot more compact than anticipated.
        • Yes, a lot happened in a year

          But that's the way things are in technology today - and likely will remain - things change quickly. That's why leasing the data center space from someone else rather than building your own is such an attractive idea for state government.
  • Who here who's has dealt with state governments

    would have any interest in sharing a data center with a state government that was owned by said government?

    I can see one of two options. (Since the state is using part of the facility they will be involved no matter what.)

    1. You lease out of hall and then get to deal with all the state rules and such whenever you want to move a wall, change the AC, bring in a new fiber drop, whatever.

    2. An ISP/cloud operator leases out the space and deals wit the state. But they have the same issues. And man of those issues impact their customers' experience.

    Which might explain why the halls are still empty. What fast moving operation wants to have to deal with internal government bureaucracies day to day?
  • In a nutshell

    "Perhaps this should just be considered an excellent example of a project that was built with other people’s money and with no consequences if more was spent than should have been."

    American government in action.
    • The money always comes from somewhere

      Last I recall, "labor creates all wealth" - but as we all know, the person who said that is a communist. The private sector just obfuscates how money changes hands, and prefers people being blind to it.

      You might want to verify that, since the person who coined that was Abraham Lincoln, a man who was not a communist...
  • Governemnts are full of tossers worldwide

    Governments across the world are full of tossers.

    The main reason they are hopeless, hapless, useless and incompetant, is the masters are dumb politicians - who need re-elected by whatever rhetoric and spin they can make the public buy.

    Perhaps with the spare Datacenter capacity, they could co-locate another states Cloud Data center fallback/DR center, as I'm sure they have no off-site DR, as that would cost almost double and 'be a waste of money' - LOL.
    • Based on your ability to spell, you must run a city...

      What's left to say... apart from the usual diatribe of lobbyists who perverted our country from a democratic republic into an oligarchic plutocracy?
  • " built with other people’s money "

    The main issue is personal accountability. They can hide in the herd and only pop out for kudus.
    I'd bet that the real truth is that the consultant is correct but "they" cannot admit it so they cloud it with a "one data hall" estimate. In private industry, we'd be asking them where they got these figures.