Planning a datacenter? Learn from Washington’s mistakes.

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.