The new State Data Center under construction just east of the Capitol Campus on Wheeler Avenue is sized much larger than what's needed to meet the state's needs.
That’s the unsettling conclusion offered in a report prepared for state lawmakers by Excipio Consulting LLC.
The consultant concludes that the state only needs about 4,000 of the 50,000 square feet designed into the data center portion of the project, which also includes nearly 260,000 square feet of office space for the state Department of Information Services and other state agencies.
The $255 million project was supposed to include enough data center space to house multiple state agency servers currently occupying space at some 40 locations. The data center is divided into four equally sized data halls and the state needs less than even one half of one data hall, the report said.
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How could state officials so vastly overestimate their space needs? Project plans called for leaving two of the data bays vacant for future needs, but even that sounds like poor planning based on the consultant’s report. The consultant recommends the state try to rent out some of the data center space to the private sector. Regardless, the costly project is vastly overbuilt at a time when the state faces a $4.6 billion budget deficit for the next biennium.
The initial reaction from DIS officials was to blame the overbuilt data center on rapidly changing technology. Advances in computer technology allow more functions to be consolidated on computer servers, requiring fewer servers. It’s something computer geeks call “virtualization.” If the consultant has overstated the best-case scenario for virtualization, the state would still only need about 25 percent of the total data center space, the report suggests.
Legislators need to ask the tough questions of project officials at an upcoming (Feb. 8) hearing in the House General Government, Appropriations and Oversight Committee. Project managers need to be held accountable. The “technology is changing fast” excuse just doesn’t cut it.
There should be no shortage of state lawmakers clamoring for answers. Some legislators are calling for a data center spending freeze in the supplemental budget until a thorough review of the state’s technology plan is completed. That’s appropriate.
The state spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year on information services and technology. This is an area that is ripe for increased efficiencies. Perhaps it’s an area ripe for increased privatization.
The data center fiasco is a good example why there needs to be attention paid to long-range technology planning and information services delivery by the state.
Until that happens, the public will continue to look at the State Data Center as another example of out of control state government spending.