Washington Looks to Unload Data Center

Your tax dollars at work.

The state of Washington is hoping that a buyer will step in and lease or buy about 30,000 square feet worth of space in a state-built data center it now has no use for.

The $255 million site sits on Jefferson Street, a few blocks east of the state Capitol in Olympia, Wash., which state officials have promoted as being seismically inactive, and thus an ideal spot for a data center, according to local reports.

The problem? According to The News Tribune of Tacoma, Wash., a state-funded report by Excipio Consulting LLC (filed more than a year and a half ago) stated that the total of 50,000 square feet of data center space in the Department of Enterprise Services’ complex is perhaps 10 times what the state needed.

The Jefferson St. facility includes four “halls” for data center use. The state plans to use Hall 1, but also built out the related Hall 2, which it wants to lease. The two other halls haven’t been completed. The site, which includes 260,000 sq. ft. of total space, is shared between the state’s Department of Enterprise Services and its sister agency, Consolidated Technology Services.

The state hopes that the Hall 2 tenant will complete its infrastructure, leaving the state off the hook. “The way we’re hoping it would work—the best case scenario for us—is we would not have to make any additional investment in Hall 2,” Rob St. John, the CTS director, told the Tribune. “Actually what the market supports and what we can get in there, time will tell.’’

The vacancy in the data center is the result of a revised information strategy document released in February by Bharat Shyam, the state’s chief information officer. At the time, many of the state’s physical servers were housed in “OB2,” or the Office Building 2 Data Center. According to the report, OB2’s servers had exceeded the facility’s cooling abilities, leading the state to schedule the transfer of about 20 to 25 percent of that computing load to the Jefferson St. location.

The problem was that many of those servers were then virtualized, in preparation for the move and to spread their capabilities across different physical locations. In turn, that meant that the number of physical servers the state needed was reduced, eliminating the need for data center space. “All of the data centers… with the exception of OB2, are operating significantly under capacity today because of virtualization,” read the Feburary report.

Within the Jefferson St. facility, necessary infrastructure will be installed “just in time” to accommodate new tenants in the SDC, CTS said in April.

The problem now is managing the OB2 facility’s heat issues, as CTS is now engaged with customers to identify equipment that can be shut down immediately.

According to The Seattle Times, the technical issues behind the state’s data center consolidation have also become a political football of sorts, with state Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, attempting to halt the site’s construction.

“Carlyle has argued that data storage on ‘the cloud’ and advances in ‘virtualization’—which uses the power of a few computers to store and manage far more data than previously was considered possible—would make the building unnecessary,” the paper reported.


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