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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.
CONTROVERSY OVER COSTS
One commentator on our online story, identified as "orstateitguy," says this: "Actual costs for hardware and support have skyrocketed for nearly all of the affected agencies and the wait time to get new, needed equipment has quintupled."

Trying to compare costs is difficult, Reyer says, because baseline data provided by the agencies before the consolidation was either grossly understated or nonexistent. Rep. Bruce Hanna, Oregon's House Republican leader, agrees, saying the goals of the project "were unrealistic" because of inaccurate cost figures provided by some agencies from the onset.

Also, the scope of the project and the services the data center offers has grown substantially. In the 2-1/2 years since the consolidation began, the facility's data capacity has grown from 130 TB to 281 TB, storage has increased "well over 40%," and the mainframe has been upgraded twice, Reyer says.

According to both Reyer and the audit report, a decision was made to move the agencies' IT operations into the data center in their "as-is" state, before the consolidation work was begun and before the architecture, standards, and licensing issues had been worked out. "Seems like the planning highlighted in the article should have been done beforehand, instead of on-the-fly," one letter writer observes.

Perhaps so. Reyer says the "as-is" decision was necessary to get the project going. The audit report continually calls for "an appropriate project management framework" and cites a lack of a "detailed end-state architecture" and of progress in consolidating data center operating procedures. Reyer says those project plans are in place now and on track.

DEMANDS AND BATTLES
In some places, the audit report reads like a case study of the conflicting demands and turf battles inherent in a big integration project: "Since migration, SDC management has focused resources on providing ongoing services to customers," the report states. "As such, staff has not been available to establish new data center controls, such as developing a comprehensive configuration management system. In addition, some operational requirements, such as establishing service-level agreements and standard operating procedures, remained undeveloped because SDC management had not assumed operational control of some agency platforms or established consensus with application owners regarding operating requirements and expectations."

Reyer says that the agencies just recently signed off on the SDC's "service catalog." Service-level agreements are the next step, he says.

Another online commentator says this: "As for services from the SDC, I've seen our agency's entire network down three times in the last six months, and when we asked for an explanation, the SDC either wouldn't tell us or they stated they didn't know what the cause was."

Reyer says the incidents referred to may have involved "fiber cuts" or a flood in the northwest part of the state, but network outages are a fact of life. "We stand by our measurements and our instrument reports," he says, which indicate network uptime of "at least three nines."

In his published response to the auditor's report, director Harra says, "Management agrees that disaster recovery plans are inadequate and need corrective action," which he promises will be implemented by the end of this year.

Among Oregon state legislators, there's concern about the project. Rep. Chuck Riley, a Democrat, is holding a special meeting of the House Government Accountability and Information Technology Committee, which he chairs, on Aug. 12 to discuss the status and the auditor's report.

At least one online commentator suggests a vested interest in the controversy: "My opinion is that the project that spawned the 'SDC' was a political ploy so that one umbrella agency in Oregon could get their hands on federal dollars that would otherwise be reserved for other agencies."

Conspiracy theories aren't unusual in these kinds of projects, says Chris Dixon, an analyst at government research firm Input. But once a project like this gets started, agencies must get with the program. Says Dixon: "What are the agencies going to do, pick up all their stuff and take it back?"