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8/4/2008
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Oregon Data Center Project Scrutinized

We've received lots of feedback about our article on the state of Oregon's work to consolidate its data centers. A state auditor's report says several of the project's "significant objectives" haven't been met.


Oregon's new data center

Oregon's new data center
In our July 21 issue, InformationWeek published an article about the state of Oregon's data center consolidation project ("Oregon Goes Lean, Mean, And Green"), written by its technology administrator, Mark Reyer. Several days before publication, Oregon's Office of the Secretary of State issued an audit report critical of the project. Since then, we've received many letters and online comments about the article and the project. Allow us to catch you up on all that feedback.

Oregon began its data center consolidation project in 2004, intending to move the IT processing of 12 state agencies and numerous smaller departments and commissions into a single state-run facility. Construction of the state data center (SDC) was completed, at a cost of $20 million, in January 2006. In January 2007, the state finished the migration of 11 agency data centers into the new facility, at a cost of $43 million.

The auditor's report says several of the project's "significant objectives" haven't been met, including reducing the number of network servers and operating systems, ensuring adequate security measures, offering service-level agreements, and implementing an effective disaster-recovery strategy. Resources will have to be added to the project, and the efficiencies and planned cost-savings will likely not materialize, the report concludes.

In a published response to the audit report, Scott Harra, director of the Department of Administrative Services, which oversees IT for the state, says he "partially agrees with the findings." However, Harra defends the project's status and expresses confidence in its ability to ultimately deliver as promised. "The SDC has developed an exhaustive process and technology architectural blueprint as well as associated standards," Harra writes. "The complex migration from an unplanned ad hoc structure to the blueprint must be implemented slowly, deliberately, and with adequate testing and impact analysis."

Reyer says the audit report, which was begun in April of last year, doesn't accurately reflect what's going on now. For instance, his team just recently completed consolidation of the data center's three mainframes onto a single IBM z10 mainframe, which will help conserve energy. He says he hopes to have 220 Unix systems consolidated onto two IBM p595 servers by the end of this year. The Harra response letter says 70 servers have been eliminated.

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Reyer's overview article for InformationWeek, however, glossed over certain inconvenient facts about the project. For instance, the Oregon Department of Education, one of the original 12 agencies, never moved into the data center--and probably never will--because of data security issues related to federal privacy regulations. The Department of Consumer and Business Services had to move its processing out of the state data center and back to its data center because of inadequate electrical power.

Reyer admits the initial planning underestimated the number of servers the data center would have to accommodate, and that the electrical power planned for, at 55 watts per square foot, is "very low." He says he intends to make up for it through consolidation and energy conservation. Reyer says he hopes to get the Consumer and Business Services department back into the data center by the beginning of next year.

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