Washington State's datacenter fiasco - it's time to pay the bill

Washington State's datacenter fiasco - it's time to pay the bill

Summary: The piper has come calling, and it looks like the government will be reaching into the taxpayer's pocket to cover the bill

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Back in August 2012 I wrote about the planning and forecasting errors that resulted in Washington State building a datacenter that ended up being five times larger than they actually needed, despite being informed before  well before completion that the project scale was much too large. Last August the state was launching a serious attempt to find tenants for their excess datacenter space, which was built as part of a $250 million state office complex.

So here we are, 7 months later, and as the saying goes, the chickens have come home to roost. The state has failed to get a single additional tenant for their space, which means that every man, woman, and child who lives in Washington will be paying about $5 each to allow the datacenter project to cover its bills for the next 2 years. And yes, Washington state has just under 7 million residents who will likely continue to have their pocket’s picked to cover this boondoggle, as the $34.4 million over the next two years also includes $25.1 million to service the on-going debt on the lease-to-own datacenter building.

According to a report in the Olympian, Rob St. John, director of the state’s Consolidated Technology Services (CTS) agency, told a government committee last week that the CTS simply can’t shoulder the burden for these expenses. This means the state will need to find a way to bill the taxpayer for the necessary funds.

And to add insult to injury, St. John also told the Olympian that he couldn’t raise the rates that the various government agencies are charged to use the facility. He was afraid that to cover the shortfall the rates would go so high that the other agencies would choose either not to relocate to the new facility or find cheaper services from other data center and service providers.

The government continues to brainstorm for ways to make use of the empty facilities, even moving completely away from the idea of using the remaining datacenter halls as datacenters. But with little progress being made it looks like the shortsightedness of the legislature in 2009 will haunt Washington’s tax-payers for quite a bit longer.

Topics: Data Centers, Government

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17 comments
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  • State IT

    State IT divisions are often overzealous with how they spend tax dollars. Spending money in ways private business would never do because it is not theirs. I remember reading about why Microsoft didn't initially have a west coast Azure data center. It had to do with tax issues in Washington...

    Wrong year in your first sentence.
    velasquezsamp
    • Exactly. The state promised them one thing, they built it, and the state

      tried to pull the old bait-n-switch. Naturally MS mothballed it until the state got sane on it. If the state had any brains they would have just used MS's datacenter and never built their own. MS runs them much cheaper than any state can. So does Amazon, also headquartered in WA state.
      Johnny Vegas
      • Back to the future

        Look out for the Delorean
        ploco@...
      • Like only government does bait'n'switch chicanery?

        The corporations that play the same games don't mind, especially while our tax dollars are used to line their pockets as "profit", which happened long before the bailouts and still happens today...
        HypnoToad72
    • So you know such government IT workers and know that as a fact?

      Now ask why government engages in privatization and outsourcing work to private agencies...

      Your blanketing of blame becomes a tad muddled when ALL the factors are considered... and even my responses don't encompass all, but they definitely reflect issues people choose to pretend don't exist.
      HypnoToad72
      • It probably wasn't the workers

        More likely it was managers, including political appointees, contractors, and their lobbyists.
        John L. Ries
  • "Back in Aug 2013"?

    I think a typo crept in somewhere.
    D.T.Long
  • Easy solution

    Free cloud storage for all Wash residents. The only question is, would you trust the government with your data? ;-)
    D.T.Long
    • What??

      Trust a government...ANY government with data of any kind...they don't even need to be hacked to screw it up!!!
      It is inherent with all bureaucracies to mess the simplest things up.
      Tonydid
  • Washington could always rent out the space

    Charge market rates and recover as much of the money as they can.

    Long ago, old fashioned conservatives like Calvin Coolidge used to talk about running government like a business; the principle seems to apply here.
    John L. Ries
    • "market rates"

      The market devalues everything it touches.

      You'll never get your pwecious money back.

      P.S. People voted for "run government like a business" starting with Reagan... much joy it did the working class, which includes you BTW...
      HypnoToad72
      • Do you have a better alternative?

        Washington has a much bigger data center than it actually needs. Some foresight would have been good, but given that it's already been built, the state might as well recover some of the taxpayers' misspent money.
        John L. Ries
  • Train the unemployed as hackers

    Have them all work out of this facility and go up against the Chinese govt hackers.
    Tired Tech
    • The hackers Microsoft helped train

      Look up articles such as "How Microsoft conquered China" and "Does Microsoft's sharing of source code with China and Russia pose a security risk?" and see who's really responsible. Not government, since government involvement in a "free market" is c0mmunism or whatever...

      Ironic, isn't it? :)
      HypnoToad72
  • That's okay

    I mean, taxpayers foot the bill for every penny of corporate subsidy (corporate welfare, bailouts, QE1-3, etc, and inversely so via tax cuts and tax breaks they enjoy at our expense...)
    HypnoToad72
  • Small stuff

    As government waste goes, this is relatively penny-ante - and I'm speaking as a citizen of the State of Washington, my tax money being frittered away. At least this bought something they might find a market for, there's a chance they could recoup this money - that's more than you can say about most of their boondoggles.
    Greenknight_z
  • different day, same smell

    definition of "aircraft carrier": a rowboat built to government specifications

    contracting out is another boondoggle. What happens is that the contractor is usually quite specialized, but gives the government a pretty decent price for the first year and perhaps the second. Pretty soon this contractor is really the only one who can do the job correctly due to tribal knowledge and "proprietary" information and others turning away from that sort of work.

    At that point the price doubles and/or triples and changing contractors becomes a major effort to scare up a qualified contractor (and that's a whole other subject) which can do the work at a lesser price.

    Been there done that - Circular A71.
    wizardjr