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Will Washington State Have Too Much Data Center?

Washington state spokesperson refutes consultant’s finding that much of new data center is unneeded.

Washington state’s new $255 million state data center project in Olympia is under fire after a consultant concluded that the center may be much larger than what the state will need in the future to fit its computing needs.

However, Joanne Todd, spokeswoman for the Department of Information Services, said recent news stories claiming that the state may need less than 10 percent of the data center are not entirely true.

“That’s a misperception,” Todd said.

The project, which currently is under construction, consists of a 50,000 square-foot data center that’s made up of four 12,000 square-foot halls. In addition, there are two office buildings, putting the entire complex at about 300,000 square feet, according to Todd.

The project will consolidate the state’s existing data center, which is about 25,000 square feet, plus the other 60,000 to 70,000 square feet of floor space being used within other state agencies, Todd said.

“Right now, it would take more [space] than what we’re even building,” she said of fitting everything in the new data center.

Excipio Consulting based the calculation in its report to Washington state on a goal of reaching 80 percent virtualization for all services before moving over to the new center, Todd said. “It’s a very lofty goal, and many of them [the agencies] will not be able to make it,” she added. The 80 percent virtualization target was set by a group of CIOs who lead state agencies.

While the data center is being built, the state’s IT leadership is working on ways to consolidate and save money through a shared services initiative for e-mail and enterprise storage and virtualization, said Todd. If the state was using these virtualization efforts to their full capacity, only one-half of one of the new data center’s four halls would be used, the consultant reported.

However, Todd said meeting the 80 percent virtualization goal is far off and the process will happen in stages.

“The idea is that while the core is being built out, these guys will be putting virtualization in place, so it will be much easier to move into the state data center when it’s time,” she said.

Once virtualization takes place, and the Department of Information Services analyzes what extra space there is, the department is considering leasing the space to an outside vendor.

But what agency or entity ultimately makes that decision is uncertain. Gov. Chris Gregoire has floated a proposal to create a new IT agency that would ultimately eliminate the Department of Information Services.

Furthermore, State Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Wash., who has persistently been against the data center projects, added a “proposed provisional” in the state’s supplemental budget to stop spending on data center equipment or moving any hardware into it until more research is done.

However, Todd said the Information Services Department doesn’t take possession of the new data center complex until July, and the state won’t be moving equipment over until the project is completed later this year. The project is currently on schedule.