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Could the Cloud Derail a $300 Million Data Center?

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the follow-the-electrons dept.

Government 109

1sockchuck writes "The cloud computing debate has come into focus for taxpayers in Washington state, where a proposed $300 million project to build a data center in Olympia for the state's IT operations is coming under scrutiny. Two legislators are urging the state to shift applications to the cloud instead, noting that two of the largest cloud computing providers (Microsoft and Amazon) are based in the state. The critics say the data center project is driven by an interest in local construction and 'fails to seriously explore the larger strategic question facing government technology today.'"

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109 comments

short answer: yes. (0)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 4 years ago | (#28798089)

next question.

Re:short answer: yes. (1)

SchroedingersCat (583063) | more than 4 years ago | (#28798297)

Two legislators are urging the state to shift applications to the cloud instead

The answer is obvious if you look at top campaign contributors for these 2 legislators.

Re:short answer: yes. (1)

w1 (1604343) | more than 4 years ago | (#28799197)

Reuven Carlyle [followthemoney.org] and Hans Dunshee [followthemoney.org] received a combined total of $1200 from MS and $900 from the "Washington software alliance". They've received more from broadband interests which might lead counter to wanting to derail a datacenter (although the broadband money is probably focused more on different legislation), and quite a bit more from other sectors.

sometimes public policy matters.... (4, Insightful)

Rep. Reuven Carlyle (1604397) | more than 4 years ago | (#28801629)

Do you really think I'd take a stand like this for Microsoft or Google or any other company? I'm trying to have a more serious discussion before we spend $300M on a state owned and operated data center with a weak business case behind it on the Capitol Campus when we're so broke we're closing group foster homes. And I'm not suggesting we send all the data to the cloud, just look at a more strategic technology plan that uses it when/if appropriate. Doesn't take away or discount the legitimate privacy/security issues to raise other options. Reuven Carlyle

Re:sometimes public policy matters.... (1)

w1 (1604343) | more than 4 years ago | (#28802097)

I was basically countering the parent by showing that MS (or amazon) wasn't a "top campaign contributor" as he implied.

Not that I trust your motives in general.

Re:sometimes public policy matters.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28803395)

Do you really think I'd take a stand like this for Microsoft or Google or any other company? I'm trying to have a more serious discussion before we spend $300M on a state owned and operated data center with a weak business case behind it on the Capitol Campus when we're so broke we're closing group foster homes.

And I'm not suggesting we send all the data to the cloud, just look at a more strategic technology plan that uses it when/if appropriate. Doesn't take away or discount the legitimate privacy/security issues to raise other options.

Reuven Carlyle

Finally a Rep. that reads the message boards and takes the time to respond with a no-nonesense answer. Too bad I'm in California.

Re:short answer: yes. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28798475)

Next question. Is that REALLY your beard?

*blinks* (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28798113)

If I lived in that state, I'd be pretty upset by the mere suggestion that it would be a good idea to have all the private information which the state holds about me go through either Microsoft or Google.

Re:*blinks* (2, Informative)

jtownatpunk.net (245670) | more than 4 years ago | (#28798237)

Yeah, 'cause the various arms of government have such a great track record when it comes to network security. Remember when the department of the interior was so monumentally hosed that all internet activity was banned? They weren't even allowed to have their public websites online.

Re:*blinks* (3, Interesting)

Albanach (527650) | more than 4 years ago | (#28798335)

If I lived in that state, I'd be pretty upset by the mere suggestion that it would be a good idea to have all the private information which the state holds about me go through either Microsoft or Google.

If you're hosting your own images and just using their processors, storage and bandwidth then what I would be concerned about is the privacy policy that forms part of the contract. Properly set up however, the important data should be arriving at the cloud encrypted and be stored encrypted. The host should have no ability to access raw personal data.

Personally I'm wondering just what sort of IT infrastructure they have that demands a $300 million data center? With 66,000 employees that's $4500 per employee. Just what is the data center for?

Re:*blinks* (2, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#28798415)

Just what is the data center for?

Call me crazy, but I think it might be for storing and processing data.

This is a state government, they have data necessary to deliver government services of various kinds to the 6.5 million Washington residents. I'm not sure what the number of employees they have has to do with anything.

Personally, I'd be hesitant to build one giant data center just because you then have a single point of failure, unless their budget includes a disaster recovery site somewhere else. However, shifting personal data to "the cloud" of a for-profit company, especially when the security of cloud architecture is still being scrutinized, would scare me even more.

Re:*blinks* (1)

Albanach (527650) | more than 4 years ago | (#28798767)

This is a state government, they have data necessary to deliver government services of various kinds to the 6.5 million Washington residents. I'm not sure what the number of employees they have has to do with anything.

Well call me stupid, but I'd figured most of the interaction with the Government's computers would be by the Government's staff.

6.5 million people isn't a big number. There will be scores of folk on /. running databases for that many folk or more on a couple of servers.

So sorry, I'm still wondering just what applications demand a $300 million data center to run the day to day operations of a state government.

Re:*blinks* (2, Informative)

Nethead (1563) | more than 4 years ago | (#28800091)

Those Washington State computers keep me from having to interact with State employees. wa.gov has been a leader in getting government online. I remember back in '95 when the head data guy, Jim Culp, raised a big stink with the powers-that-be by listing ALL government phone numbers on the gopher and www site, including the Governer's cell-phone. His reasoning was that the people of the State paid for it so they were entitled to the information.

I haven't been to a DMV office in over a decade because I can renew my VOL and my car tabs online. I can pay my property tax, register to vote, look up laws, ask staff questions and perform many other actions, all sitting on my fat citizen ass. All because Washington State has put so much info online. I even setup a S-corp my self just by filling out forms online.

Take a look at ftp.wsdot.wa.gov sometime. They have had this open since '95 so tax payers can dig into where their money is going.

Re:*blinks* (1)

drainbramage (588291) | more than 4 years ago | (#28801445)

All your base are theirs.
They have your private stuff.
They have all of your private stuff.
Does Micro$oft care?
Will any corporation keep your stuff local?
A state employee does not get the corporate anonymity or lawyers of 'the cloud'.
The state data center won't suddenly be moved to Elbonia to save money.
I hope.

Re:*blinks* (1)

dublindan (1558489) | more than 4 years ago | (#28804655)

$50 million to build it, $150 million to keep it running for the next year or two and $100 million for the politicians to congratulate each other with over a job well done.

Re:*blinks* (1)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 4 years ago | (#28801883)

eln(21727) wrote:

Call me crazy

Okay, I am making it official.
eln is Crazy.

+1 Informative plzkthxbai.

Re:*blinks* (1)

Random Person 1372 (1529155) | more than 4 years ago | (#28798819)

Properly set up however, the important data should be arriving at the cloud encrypted and be stored encrypted. The host should have no ability to access raw personal data.

And how you would go to process the data?

Re:*blinks* (1)

lukas84 (912874) | more than 4 years ago | (#28799505)

The data will be downloaded using an Excel plugin into Excel, decrypted, and then queries will be done using Excel.

This way, you get all the advantages of cloud storage, plus the easy usability of Excel.

could it? Sure. Should it? No (4, Insightful)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 4 years ago | (#28798123)

Good God, I can't be the only one so sick of this cloud computing bullshit. Seriously, just because it works for some types of data and/or applications, doesn't mean it'll work for everything.

Put down the fucking hammer, not every IT task is a frigging nail.

Idiots.

Re:could it? Sure. Should it? No (1)

gx5000 (863863) | more than 4 years ago | (#28798227)

Agreed.. I've already commented on this a few times... The managers in charge of projects don't seem to be seasoned enough to understand the long term disadvantages of cloud computing...never mind the security and sovereignty issues involved. I'll say it again, some people need to put down their copy of Techwars and realize that some projects are too wide for web applications.

Re:could it? Sure. Should it? No (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 4 years ago | (#28798691)

and realize that some projects are too wide for web applications.

Like what exactly? The biggest applications I have experience with are all n-tier web fronted applications. Our ERP, ECM, BI, and CRM* are all web based and so are almost every app in those product spaces. The only apps that I am aware of that are large and not necessarily improved by using a web frontend are greenscreen apps like SABRE access or something like state DMV systems and you can generally make those snappy enough with modern web technologies to be acceptable.

*:
ERP= Enterprise Resource Planning (JD Edwards, SAP, MS Dynamix, Peoplesoft)
ECM= Enterprise Content Management (Livelink, Documentum, Sharepoint)
BI= Business Intelligence (Oracle BI, Cognos, Hyperion, Business Objects)
CRM= Customer Relationship management (salesforce.com, MS CRM, Siebel)

Re:could it? Sure. Should it? No (2, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#28799225)

If we limit it to things the government would do, yeah, they probably could standardize on something with a dozen other states and save a lot of money. If they go into it alone, it's just a money pit, though. If you have to run a custom app just for you, I'd expect it to be much cheaper to maintain systems in-house than to contract it out to a for-profit company to maintain them for you.

That said, I can think of a lot of apps that can't realistically work via the cloud---not because of the number of records, but because of the size of each individual record and the performance requirements for accessing those records.

Examples of apps that cannot realistically exist in the cloud:

  • video editing--the bandwidth requirements are too great, and each user would need the equivalent of several full blown CPUs all at once for the majority of the time (minimal idle time), so there is no advantage to cloud hosting over having those CPUs locally.
  • audio editing--in addition to all the problems of video editing, audio work tends to have a live recording component. There's no possibility of using a remote computer to apply real-time effects to the audio that is being recorded. The latency alone makes this difficult even if the cloud is really a server in the next room. So at minimum, you must have enough local CPU to handle all channel effects for any channels with record activated, plus any busses that those channels dump into, plus any master effects. In short, you have to have a beefy system locally, so why bother with the cloud at all? Oh, and a packet getting dropped would spell disaster, making it decidedly not fault tolerant.
  • photo editing--the bandwidth requirements are far too great for any serious editing (not talking about the fairly lightweight editors out there now), and the CPU requirements would at best allow maybe a 4:1 ratio between users and hardware, which doesn't save enough to cover the extra cost of rack-mount servers and faster networking even within your own building, much less the R&D costs or the cost of contracting it out to a third party to maintain at a profit. This ratio won't likely improve much because as computers get faster, people take advantage of that to do more complex effects and work with larger, higher-resolution images. And if you are just using Canvas on your local machine or similar, then there's no advantage to the cloud.

I'm sure there are plenty of others.

Re:could it? Sure. Should it? No (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 4 years ago | (#28800511)

I can't see any of the things you are talking about being done in a centralized government datacenter. For all the paper pushing and website presentation stuff that the government is going to be doing the cloud is a fine solution. I will conceded that there are probably plenty of legacy applications that will need to stay on mainframes and Unix boxes but what percentage of the states datacenter needs are those? Like most things cloud computing is a tool and the job of IT professionals is to find the right tool for the job.

Re:could it? Sure. Should it? No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28800949)

Avoid any thing from Revenue Solutions. Their web-implementation is anything from SNAPPY!!

They tell the ISO guys that it is the server. I blame sloppy Java Coders.

Re:could it? Sure. Should it? No (1)

evil-merodach (1276920) | more than 4 years ago | (#28801215)

The State of Washington has multiple computing platforms. Why does everything think that these platforms are all supported by either Microsoft's or Amazon's clouds? I know the State of Washington also has IBM zSeries mainframe systems. Somehow I don't think these environments are supported by these particular clouds.

Re:could it? Sure. Should it? No (4, Insightful)

vertinox (846076) | more than 4 years ago | (#28798301)

Seriously, just because it works for some types of data and/or applications, doesn't mean it'll work for everything.

What is the difference between an in-house datacenter and an outsourced one?

The person you write the checks to.

That's about it these days.

Chances are if they did do in house, the techs were still be outsourced contracts instead of state employees. If they outsource it to Amazon or Microsoft in the state they'll still be employing locals and hopefully save tax dollars in the process.

But I do agree about the whole "cloud computing" being BS as a hypeword. Its really a euphemism for "outsourced".

Re:could it? Sure. Should it? No (3, Insightful)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 4 years ago | (#28799229)

Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer to keep my data in-house. I know who is accessing it, who even has access to it, who has access to the physical rooms, the racks, etc. Do you think that "cloud" computing is going to increase or decrease security leaks? In a few years, if this keeps going the way we're going, there will be so many leaks we won't even report them anymore.

Yeah, I do networking/security for a living, and I simply cannot trust a third party to be as responsible as I am with my data. I work for a financial firm, there is no way in hell we'd even consider out-sourcing our data or servers to a third party. Way way too much information available there, it would be too tempting, IMO.

With regards to the data center in question, yes, chances are it will be out-sourced. But I wasn't referring to that. I was referring to calling out-sourcing your servers and whatnot to a 3rd party "cloud computing". Cloud computing to me indicates that your information is distributed all over the internet, not a single provider. That's not a "cloud", that's a single entity.

But whatever floats their boat.

Re:could it? Sure. Should it? No (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 4 years ago | (#28799877)

Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer to keep my data in-house.

Unless you happen to be a one person government or business, "my data" doesn't apply.

A government or business has to either trust their employees or the persons they contract to deal with the data either way.

The question you have to ask is "Do you trust your employees or contractors?" and "Do they have deep enough pockets to sue when something goes wrong?"

On a personal level, I wouldn't put my private data on a cloud, but when you look at businesses where the owners or management isn't IT, they have little choice to let people do it for them.

In your case your employers trust you, but what if you left and they hired someone incompetent? Same difference as the outsource. They use the same hardware as you most likely so technically there is no advantage.

It is simply a matter of trust.

Re:could it? Sure. Should it? No (1)

Critical Facilities (850111) | more than 4 years ago | (#28800069)

What is the difference between an in-house datacenter and an outsourced one? The person you write the checks to.

I agree, but I'd add liability. If it's outsourced, you have someone to blame/punch if something goes wrong.

Re:could it? Sure. Should it? No (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 4 years ago | (#28803593)

I still don't see the benefit of outsourcing for these large projects. I can understand the benefit where you have a single small project and no in-house knowledge or need to hire someone to do it. For a $300M datacenter however you do need a full time datacenter manager and at least a couple of hard- and software technicians.

If you outsource it you still have to pay for those people but on top of that you also have to pay for another companies and your own contracting overhead as well as profits (and in these IT projects profits are typically in the 50%-500% range) thus eating everything you could have ever thought of saving on it. If you needed a $300M datacenter to host all your applications, what makes you think that another company won't need to expand into a similar datacenter once you buy all services from them? Sure it might not be visible right away (the first 2 years) but after that you'll keep paying on a monthly or yearly basis while your datacenter would already have been paid for and you only need to pay for utilities and upkeep.

The "cloud" doesn't make your applications magically disappear. It just moves your applications to another person's datacenter which you now have to pay more for in order to increase someone else's profits. The only reason to outsource to a 'cloud' or 'someone else's datacenter' is either because you don't have the scale necessary to build your own, your staff is too incompetent to build their own or your managing layer is too incompetent to do simple arithmetics or to hire somebody with the correct skill set.

Re:could it? Sure. Should it? No (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28798303)

Good God, I can't be the only one so sick of this cloud computing bullshit. Seriously, just because it works for some types of data and/or applications, doesn't mean it'll work for everything.

Put down the fucking hammer, not every IT task is a frigging nail.

Idiots.

It would be an interesting archaeology study to dig through messageboards and bulletin boards from the 70's and 80s. I'm sure that you could find people discussing the idea of shifting computing from the big, time shared mainframes to personal computers.

I'm also sure one would find comments like yours, stating how annoying the idea of personal computers sounds like the ubiquitous nail for the universal hammer problem. I wouldn't be surprised if there were several people in the vocal minority who had disdain for non-distributed computing.

Hopefully, in two decades, someone will be digging through Slashdot and laughing about us having to search through the slow-ass "Information Superhighway" for our data.

It's funny how history repeats itself.

Re:could it? Sure. Should it? No (3, Insightful)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 4 years ago | (#28798791)

It would be an interesting archaeology study to dig through messageboards and bulletin boards from the 70's and 80s. I'm sure that you could find people discussing the idea of shifting computing from the big, time shared mainframes to personal computers.

I'm also sure one would find comments like yours, stating how annoying the idea of personal computers sounds like the ubiquitous nail for the universal hammer problem. I wouldn't be surprised if there were several people in the vocal minority who had disdain for non-distributed computing.

Hopefully, in two decades, someone will be digging through Slashdot and laughing about us having to search through the slow-ass "Information Superhighway" for our data.

It's funny how history repeats itself.

One could. There was. And it isn't.

There is no difference between what was happening then, and what is happening now. Then, it was short-sighted management that wanted to avoid the costs of the mainframe and having to deal with Data Processing when they wanted something. Now, it is short-sighted management that wants to avoid the cost of in-house servers and desktop computers and having to deal with IT when they want something.

Then, the problems cropped up when data that used to be in one location was suddenly on every PC in the organization and out of sync with the mainframe and every other PC. Now, the problem will crop up when we will have the data on NONE of the computers in an organization, and some dork with backhoe whose parents never bought him Tonka toys chops the fiber. Or, that a poorly written application stores critical data in the clear and suddenly a Google search brings up your medical history.

When I call a company for service I do not want to be told sorry, we can't help you until whatever problem happened is fixed, because we have no way to pull up your records.

Re:could it? Sure. Should it? No (1)

david_thornley (598059) | more than 4 years ago | (#28800897)

You're missing one important difference. Cost accounting.

Back in the decentralization movement, users would compare the cost of a pile of hardware with the cost of services from the Data Processing department. They wouldn't listen to DP people talking about things like backup and uptime and support. They'd listen to the vendors who'd tell them they could get services on the cheap.

(This hasn't changed. There's lots of places where top management will believe the vendors rather than their internal experts.)

With the cloud, upper management is at least buying computer power with support. A reputable cloud cloud vendor will provide all sorts of support function. A disreputable one will charge less....oops! Well, things will be some better.

Aside from that, I'm just hearing all the arguments I heard decades ago, and I know how those turned out already.

Re:could it? Sure. Should it? No (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 4 years ago | (#28799023)

Amen.

The only more stupid than moving everything to some imaginary "Cloud" is two politicians suggesting that everything be moved to some imaginary "Cloud".

Re:could it? Sure. Should it? No (1)

ergo98 (9391) | more than 4 years ago | (#28800345)

Yes, but some guy used it to mass-convert a bunch of static TIFFs to static PDFs...so...

The cloud is grossly overhyped. People have some vague, fuzzy belief that it is the solution for everything in the same way that they thought XML and Web Services were before. It is a part of the puzzle, but it certainly isn't as profound as some think it is.

Re:could it? Sure. Should it? No (1)

mldi (1598123) | more than 4 years ago | (#28800747)

Good God, I can't be the only one so sick of this cloud computing bullshit. Seriously, just because it works for some types of data and/or applications, doesn't mean it'll work for everything.

Put down the fucking hammer, not every IT task is a frigging nail.

Idiots.

Agreed. SkyNet will realize that too, ironically. Killing humans will be just too damn inefficient using cloud computing.

And here I was ... (5, Insightful)

lbalbalba (526209) | more than 4 years ago | (#28798145)

... stupid me, thinking that 'The Cloud', actually *was* a $300 Million Data Center...

Re:And here I was ... (2, Informative)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 4 years ago | (#28798211)

Exactly. Either you build your own data center, or you host your applications in someone else's data center. The cloud is just a term we use to describe the situation when you're running your applications in someone else's data center, on their hardware, on their system configuration, and possibly with their applications. The data center doesn't cease to exist because it's somebody elses. It just means you pay more, because they have to pay for the data center, plus get a profit from running the thing.

Re:And here I was ... (4, Insightful)

dave562 (969951) | more than 4 years ago | (#28798411)

This presents an interesting situation without an easy, clear cut answer. As a tax payer, I'm not sure what makes more sense. Do I want the government spending my money with a private company like Microsoft or Google, or do I want them spending my money developing their own infrastructure. On one hand, it could be argued that a large corporation that faces competitive pressures in the marketplace would be forced to keep costs down. On the other hand, by having a government run datacenter, costs can be controlled through the bugetary process. If the state runs their own datacenter, they don't have to worry about their "cloud" provider raising the rates every time the contract comes due.

The politican who came out against the datacenter says that he favors transparency. It seems to me that if he wants transparency, the state should run their own datacenter because then they will be able to completely audit all of the costs associated with it. If the IT services are outsourced into the cloud, it becomes more difficult to account for exactly how the dollars are spent. As you mentioned, a private entity needs to make a profit. A public entity simply needs to cover their costs, and in fact it is quite common for legislation to contain verbage that makes it illegal for a public entity to attempt to turn a profit by charging more for services than required to cover the costs involved.

From what I know of public sector workers (my girl friend works for the state of California), they are proud of their jobs and what they do. Of course there are always antecdotes about lazy DMV workers, or life time employees who get by doing the least possible as they look forward to their pension. However by and large, most public sector work environments have a strong sense of community pride that comes from knowing that they have a job for life (budget crisises aside). They know what their jobs are and they get them done. The large majority of the delay comes from the legislatively mandated proceedures that they have to follow... the reams of paperwork that they have to fill out to do the simplest thing. The jobs aren't the best paying jobs, but they are stable.

I can almost guarantee that sense of pride would shine through with the state of Washington IT services department. That would be "their" datacenter, and they would be providing services directly to the people of the state. There will be people working in that datacenter for 20 plus years. How long do you think people stick around a typical datacenter?

Re:And here I was ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28799115)

Reducing the size, scope, and scale of government so that it does not need such mega-computing resources is more appealing to me.

Re:And here I was ... (1)

Trailer Trash (60756) | more than 4 years ago | (#28799567)

On the other hand, by having a government run datacenter, costs can be controlled through the bugetary process.

Has that *ever* worked?

(in case you're scratching your head, the answer is "no")

Re:And here I was ... (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 4 years ago | (#28799715)

Don't believe everything that you read in the papers. At the individual department level, the costs are controlled pretty stringently (at least in California). They can't spend money that they don't have a budget line item for. Any purchase orders submitted that exceed the amount of funds available are rejected.

Re:And here I was ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28800217)

It seems to me that if he wants transparency, the state should run their own datacenter because then they will be able to completely audit all of the costs associated with it. If the IT services are outsourced into the cloud, it becomes more difficult to account for exactly how the dollars are spent.

I'm confused at your logic here. How is it no longer auditable? This is like making your own clothes as you don't want to go to Macy's as then your clothing budget is no longer transparent nor auditable.

The politician should drop the world "cloud" and just push for the state to use exisiting colo facilities instead of building their own.

Re:And here I was ... (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 4 years ago | (#28802757)

The state, or anybody for that matter, doesn't have any legal right to audit a private corporation. The state can audit the contracts, and audit the bills and audit the expenses. They cannot audit the operations of the private contractor or in any other way determine just exactly what it costs that private contractor to provide the services that they provide to the state. On the other hand, if the state is running the data center they know exactly how much the servers cost, how much the software costs, what the electrical costs are, internet costs, personnel costs, etc. A private contractor is making money reselling services. If they are being charged X for bandwidth from their ISP, they are going to charge the state X+Y where Y is enough to cover their costs and turn a profit. On the other hand, the state simply has to pay for X if they are running their own operation.

It's pretty simple math really. On a timeline of X number of months, will the state spend more doing in themselves or would it be more cost effective to outsource it? The private datacenter has the benefit of having already invested in the infrastructure. The state has to pay for their own infrastructure. Paying for their own infrastructure is an initial fixed cost. Going with a private data center is a fluctuating cost that will always go up. I'm not a finance guy, but I work with them when doing IT planning. Often times we consider a server life time of five years, and do our ROI projections based on a five year time frame. When considering outsourcing, it's pretty simple math to add up all of the fixed costs, and then compare those with the cost of a five year contract with a service provider.

I'd imagine that given the size of a state information technology department, they are on close to equal footing with a data center when it comes to negotiating the cost of hardware and software purchases. Being the state, they probably get some really good rates on their utility bills too.

Re:And here I was ... (1)

RockWolf (806901) | more than 4 years ago | (#28802393)

This presents an interesting situation without an easy, clear cut answer. As a tax payer, I'm not sure what makes more sense. Do I want the government spending my money with a private company like Microsoft or Google, or do I want them spending my money developing their own infrastructure.

As a taxpayer, I'm entirely unsure that the government cares what you think.

/~Rockwolf

Re:And here I was ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28804161)

I am a public sector IT worker in California and I agree with you completely. My biggest problem to being efficient is the pages and pages of paperwork I am forced to fill out (even to buy a $10 battery), and the numerous classes I am forced to take (ranging from safety, sexual harassment, equal opportunity, etc etc.). The government creates so many inefficiencies it is not even funny. Beyond that, our budget gets slashed all the time because it is stolen from other agency groups.

For example, we developed a great web application that serves our District users extremely well. As soon as Sacramento caught wind what we did, they started asking for FSR's and who approved it, etc. So the next time we consider a large scale development project we were forced to do 100's of pages of paperwork. It might take a year to be reviewed, and most likely turned down. Most of the great things we have done in our District we have caught flake for, and called rogue and criticized from the heads in the capital. With pressure like that, it makes you not even want to do any projects, so you end up not taking up any large projects. So over time nothing new is developed, and systems just become outdated.

That is the problem in the state of California, and I work for one of the largest state organizations in the country. The workers are not the problem, the government politics is the problem.

Re:And here I was ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28804199)

Ohhh and if you wonder why I would work for the state for less money (and it is definitely less then what my private sector friends make), it is because of the ability to take time off to travel, and working an alternate schedule. The fact the job is stable also creates a less stressful environment. But then again every year in California as the budget comes due, we are threatened with furloughs, pay cuts, and layoffs. Every year they threaten our pay and jobs because the budget is not completed on time (this occurred even during good times).

So money is not a benefit when working at the state, but it does offer other benefits. Not sure the pension is one of them anymore, I definitely can say it is not medical, our medical was torn apart several years back. Compared to friends in the private, my medical is one of the worst. The PPO is very expensive.

Re:And here I was ... (1)

twiddlingbits (707452) | more than 4 years ago | (#28798501)

You dont always pay MORE. They can use economies of scale to cost LESS than your own Datacenter and they still make money. There are two versions of outsourcing at Datacenter: You can own the equipment and co-locate and they provide power, cooling and bandwidth or you can turn it all over to them and you lease it back (this is more like the "cloud"). I have seen deals where you can save serious $$$ by not using an in-house Datacenter as power is more expensive, network is more expensive and it requires people 24x7x365 to staff it plus the expenses of tax and upkeep on the building. You have to develop a cost model based on your needs and see whether you save money. As someone else said, outsourcing is NOT the best option always. But there are some really good deals out there. Bottom Line -- A State should NOT build a $300M datacenter when other options exist. Just think of the cost to run that datacenter due to a bloated inefficient state workforce and union rules. And of course it'll never be built on time and on budget either.

Re:And here I was ... (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 4 years ago | (#28799437)

You are right. But it usually only costs less to rent out space when you don't plan to do something large scale. If you're options are set up a single rack with all the amenities of a wold class data center, then it's going to be much cheaper to just rent a rack at your local data center. However, if you are going to build a $300 Million data center, then renting the same amount of resources off of someone else is probably going to cost more. Somewhere in the middle lies the tipping point. The tipping point might be beyond $300 million, but I doubt it. Once you are building a large data center such as this, you are already taking advantage of economies of scale.

Re:And here I was ... (1)

R4nm4-kun (1302737) | more than 4 years ago | (#28798231)

If it takes a 300 Million $ Data Center to store that data, it'll take a 300 Million $ Data Center from MS or Google or whoever, regardless of Cloud or no Cloud. I don't see what cloud computing has to do with this. It's more like build your own vs rent one debate.

Re:And here I was ... (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 4 years ago | (#28798793)

Except with MS or Google you can rent space in multiple disparate datacenters which is better than running your own single large one. The problem with cloud computing is that it assumes every application is horizontally scalable and available on open systems platforms (IE Windows or Linux).

Re:And here I was ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28798241)

... stupid me, thinking that 'The Cloud', actually *was* a $300 Million Data Center...

My thoughts exactly.

Re:And here I was ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28798395)

No no, it's IN the clouds...up there....

"The files are IN the computer"

Re:And here I was ... (1)

SecurityGuy (217807) | more than 4 years ago | (#28799049)

No "The Cloud" is somebody else's $300 million data center.

That's all. Does it make sense to outsource all your operations or some of them to "The Cloud". Maybe. And sometimes.

Re:And here I was ... (2, Funny)

llamalad (12917) | more than 4 years ago | (#28800285)

How are we supposed to have a conversation about this if you're going to go and cloud the discussion with actual facts?

Re:And here I was ... (1)

aafiske (243836) | more than 4 years ago | (#28800301)

It is, they're saying they should use the $300 million data center that already exists instead of buying a new one.

Why is a basic reading comprehension failure modded insightful?

Doing what you do best is best. (2, Interesting)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 4 years ago | (#28801459)

California spent a pile of money to develop their own data center in the Department of Education. A ton. And the result is less than impressive, with uptimes that approach 95%, and constant notices of downtime, often unexpected, due not only to the occasional software glitch (which happens, even to Google) but also to network issues. (Routers going down, unstable/bad performing connections, etc.)

Given the amount of money spent, the result is just... disappointing. And yet, just a few miles away, there are private hosting facilities with many times the capacity necessary for the state to host all their stuff with 5-nines uptime, with excellent performance levels, demonstrated over 5 years, at rock-bottom prices. Seriously, it isn't until you get to the "enterprise level" hosting that you discover just how *cheap* top-notch hosting is - it's a perverse, inverted marketplace, where the better the quality, the lower the price.

The State of California could have probably saved anywhere from ten to a hundred million dollars by simply renting the (highly qualified!) IT services of a local facility in Sacramento rather than trying to do it in-house. And this is the lesson that I've taken from this and many other situations: Focus on your core competence. Find out what you do best, and do that, because that's best, and outsource anything else you can to save money.

This is where Dell is about to be marginalized, because what they did best is produce decent quality machines cheap and fast, and they've been outsourcing their core competence, meaning that they no longer produce decent quality machines cheap and fast - for many of their lines, they are nothing more than a sticker on the machine. This will work for a while, but once you give away what you do best, you are a leach on the marketplace and eventually, you'll get cut out.

Doing what you do best is best.

It's Only Logical (1)

blueZhift (652272) | more than 4 years ago | (#28798171)

This reminds me of the problem of attempting interstellar travel too early. Chances are that the ship you launch will be passed up in a few years by superior technology. At least in this case, the state has a clear shot at saving some money by going with the latest and greatest, in this case, cloud computing. And being able to support local businesses (ie in-state jobs) is a double bonus as $300M is nothing to sneeze at as I'm sure the state a few hundreds miles south would attest to.

Re:It's Only Logical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28798205)

you do know the "cloud" will also require a $300 million data centre + 20-50% PROFIT on top of that, right ?
this isnt about saving taxpayers money. this is about getting campaign donations.

Re:It's Only Logical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28798247)

Except somebody has to do it. We can't just expect to test everything on Japan...

Some day... (3, Funny)

Facegarden (967477) | more than 4 years ago | (#28798195)

Some day, someone will figure out how to store data in *actual* clouds, and this whole thing is gonna get *really* confusing.
-Taylor

Re:Some day... (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#28801345)

Some day, someone will figure out how to store data in *actual* clouds, and this whole thing is gonna get *really* confusing. -Taylor

That gets expensive, when you factor in the cost of the silver lining.

The question to ask the legislators is (1)

number6x (626555) | more than 4 years ago | (#28798251)

The government has a responsibility to ensure the privacy and security of the data it owns. There may be equipment cost savings in using a third party 'cloud' hosting solution. Will those savings offset the new infrastructure the state government will have to build for compliance and auditing of the third parties?

Also, going to a 'cloud' will not just mean moving current systems from existing data centers to a new data center custom built to house the equipment that supports current systems (ie Z/OS and such). Going to the cloud will mean re-writing every system to fit into the cloud infrastructure. The re-writing would probably cost 10-20 years worth of the current IT budget for the state and take the better part of a decade.

If they are writing new systems, they should consider the 'cloud' as a base for the new system. Then in 30-40 years they will have a sizeable presence in the cloud. Of course by then we will be coding for the asteroid belt.

(And they will still be using a descendant of Z/OS in their datacenters)

Re:The question to ask the legislators is (1)

HappyDrgn (142428) | more than 4 years ago | (#28798553)

"Will those savings offset the new infrastructure the state government will have to build for compliance and auditing of the third parties?"

Ideally compliance and auditing of sensitive data with an internal IT department should be the same as with an external IT department. A government IT employee is no more or less likely to loose, steal or mishandle sensitive data than an employee in the private sector.

As for your other points about costs of converting to the "cloud" I think you hit the nail on the head. If they have the existing infrastructure to justify a new $300m data center, I can totally see development costs exceeding $300m in building out new apps, or converting existing ones to the cloud.

Re:The question to ask the legislators is (1)

rnturn (11092) | more than 4 years ago | (#28800455)

"Will those savings offset the new infrastructure the state government will have to build for compliance and auditing of the third parties?"

Oh the fun it'll be as a cloud provider having to respond to 50 different state governments, thousands of municipal governments, and innumerable corporations each with their own requirements for data retention, disaster recovery, privacy, etc., etc.

Think the cloud is going to be inexpensive when all the people needed to comply with these customers' varying requirements are on the cloud providers' payrolls?

"One size fits all" you say? Yeah... right.

As Stupid A Question As The Assertion (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28798289)

From brain dead NPR: Bin Laden Son Reported Killed In Pakistan [npr.org]

A senior U.S. counterterrorism official tells NPR that without a body to conduct DNA tests on, it's hard to be completely sure. But he characterized U.S. spy agencies as being "80 to 85 percent" certain that Saad bin Laden is dead.

>>Only if you had a sample of DNA of the victim before death, morons. What were you doing with bin Laden's son prior to his "death"?

Re:As Stupid A Question As The Assertion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28798849)

>>Only if you had a sample of DNA of the victim before death, morons. What were you doing with bin Laden's son prior to his "death"?

Cockslapping him and feeding him pork products.

Like Mr. Gearhardt Used To Say (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28798333)

"Get a haircut, GREENER [wikipedia.org]

Clouds not good for old machines (2, Insightful)

addikt10 (461932) | more than 4 years ago | (#28798341)

If this $300M Datacenter was for brand new applications and brand new servers, then they might have a point (probably not, but they might).

But in my experience, cloud computing works best for particular applications, and not as a blanket answer to wholesale moving everything in your datacenter to mystical hardware in the cloud.

I haven't seen anything in cloud computing that can handle main frame and midrange apps, Sun apps, or any of thousands of other requirements that are going to be handled in the $300M Datacenter. In the end, this is just politicians trying to seem cool.

"The network is the computer. . ." (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 4 years ago | (#28799211)

"I haven't seen anything in cloud computing that can handle main frame and midrange apps, Sun apps. . ."

Wait, wasn't Sun one of the earliest proponents of the concepts behind cloud computing [internetnews.com], but about 5 years ago, Sun was trying to get what they were calling 'utility computing' going, which was sort of a pre-cursor to the idea of cloud computing, wasn't it? Granted, they later 'canned' the Utility Computing services offering, but even now, they have a "Cloud Computing" page on the Sun Website (although, now that they are being bought by Oracle, it'll be interesting to see if they still go down that road, but it wouldn't surprise me terribly if that was something that the Oracle management might get behind).

Re: Could the Cloud Derail a $300 Million Data Cen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28798351)

Wow... Could a cloud do that or could it be a cloud that couldn't do it?

omg... i hope there is no porn in that data center... in.. where? "Olympia"? that's in china, right?

someone tell me please... i need to know this shit because i care about porn...

Wait a second... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28798353)

Wouldn't a $300 million data center be a "cloud"?

why does the state not deploy its own cloud? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28798517)

The state has a lot of machines that sit idle doing nothing for periods at a time. why not distrubute the data (with redundancy of course) among the states current infrastructure in a p2p like fashion.

it strikes me as odd that with such a huge budget deficit, the state can not see this as a cheap and smart way to store that data instead of spending $300 million on a data center, deploy a slightly modified linux distro instead and store that data on the mostly empty hard drives of all those machines. All the infrastructure is already there apart from the software.

sorry about the spelling. stuck in ie6 at the seattle public library who refuses to allow anything else on their (sometimes dual core) terminals.

Olympia Likes Money (1)

happy_place (632005) | more than 4 years ago | (#28798519)

Having lived in Washington State, one can pretty much garantee that state legislators are beholden to certain construction entities... and port authorities... and environmental impact study contracting firms... and caterers... you name it. "Monorail! Monorail! Monorail" (obligatory chant to all Washingtonians) They have some company that bids and consistently wins those bids. Olympia likes to spend a lot of money that stays entirely in Olympia... And most of the state can do nothing about this, it's been a source of frustration for most everyone else... But what can you do?

Cloud made of little boxes full of sand... (1)

dragisha (788) | more than 4 years ago | (#28798685)

This thing is local politics. Two largest provider will probably make it happen - make taxpayers spend more than $300M but look like it it is less and cheaper.

Whole subject of clouds makes me think of clouds ingredients. Vapour and bits of dirt.

"Cloud" Privacy? (4, Insightful)

mosodede (754006) | more than 4 years ago | (#28798755)

I really do not feel comfortable with the idea of the government "outsourcing" my data to a third party. I think that cloud-computing is such a young concept that it should not be used for government purposes until any privacy concerns are addressed.

Just a bad idea all around (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 4 years ago | (#28799031)

Not only for privacy issues, but for other reasons, I think this idea kind of stinks. For many private companies, handing over their operations might offer a suitable risk/rewards ratio, but why should the day to day operations of a government be so completely in the hands of a private company?

It seems to me you are just *asking* for trouble if government, at any level, doesn't own and operate their own servers. I mean, all sorts of things could go wrong. What do you do if your State government is shut down because the FBI raids the datacenter [slashdot.org] of the company you are 'cloud-sourcing' too, because one of the *other* customers of that company has unpaid telco bills or is hosting torrents of MPAA movies or RIAA music or kiddie porn, or terrorist websites, or who-knows-what? Or the company just goes belly-up over night and suddenly shuts down operations with no announcement ahead of time? Or the company gets deep in debt, a la Chrysler and GM, and since the services it provides the state are so important, the state is 'forced' to bail them out?

There's also a greater than zero risk that the contract for this 'cloud-sourced' data hosting for the state will go not to the best provider of services, but to the most politically well-connected company (e.g. the company with the Governor or State CTO's son/daughter/sister/etc on its board of directors, and/or made the most campaign contributions, etc).

Re:Just a bad idea all around (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28800967)

I work in state government. I'm responsible not only for software development, but for a few racks of fairly expensive database servers.

The so-called "cloud" will NEVER gain traction in government agencies, for three reasons:

1) In a government agency, the only status variable is how much turf you control. The more turf you have under your control, the more powerful you are and the higher your status is.

2) Within a government agency, projects and systems that are totally under your control are considered safe and trustworthy. Anything NOT under your control is a bomb waiting to go off and get someone fired. It's better to have everything on your turf under your control.

3) The "cloud" seeks to yank your precious turf away and hand it off to some dopey dot-com. Not even another agency -- a private company! Probably run by dirty long-haired hippies! Who spend all day farting around with their iPods!

You get the idea. You can have our datacenter when you storm it with paratroopers and pry it out of our cold, dead fingers, Red Dawn style.

Want real government savings? (0, Troll)

deanston (1252868) | more than 4 years ago | (#28798811)

Stop using Windows on all government desktops and servers.

Re:Want real government savings? (5, Insightful)

mosodede (754006) | more than 4 years ago | (#28798835)

Windows is not quite as crappy in large enterprises as you might like to believe.

Re:Want real government savings? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28799065)

Indeed, sir, you are quite right. It is WORSE.

lobyst war (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28799135)

so this is a fight betwen the peaple that will benefit from the contruction vs the people that will make some money of microsoft/amazon

Carlyle=techie (1)

Nethead (1563) | more than 4 years ago | (#28799669)

I'm not sure if Dunshee is just along for the ride (I'll have to call or stop by his office) but Carlyle is deep into tech. From his bio:

Reuven Carlyle is an entrepreneur in the wireless, software and clean energy industries as well as a citizen legislator.

A passionate advocate for foster children and national and community service, Reuven served as co-founder of City Year, an AmeriCorps program in King County. He's a recent member of the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges where he focused on the use of technology in education.

Professionally, Reuven helps early and mid stage firms bring new, leading edge technologies to market worldwide. He provides business development, financing, sales, board development and consulting services to technology companies especially in the wireless, software and clean technology fields.

Reuven has served on the boards of directors or advisors for AirSage, Inc., Compelling Technologies, Inc., and V2Green, Inc. He also served as chairman of the board of Twisted Pair Solutions, now the nation's premier provider of radio interoperability and communications software. He was a senior business development executive with Xypoint where he helped build the Seattle-based startup into the largest provider of wireless E911 location services in the nation. Reuven was also a public policy manager with McCaw Cellular Communications and AT&T Wireless Services. He co-founded an international business development firm to help Israeli-based technology companies enter the U.S. and European markets. In his early career, Reuven served as a communications aide in the Washington State House of Representatives. He developed an interest in government while serving as a teenage page in Congress for Sens Warren Magnuson and Scoop Jackson.

Reuven grew up in Bellingham, Wash. and has a master in public administration (M.P.A.) from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a bachelor of arts (BA) in Communications from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Re:Carlyle=techie (1)

BoberFett (127537) | more than 4 years ago | (#28802033)

So which company that he consults for on the side stands to make an assload of money off this deal?

Cloud computing is a buzzword right now. Not something I as a potential customer would want to entrust my future to.

Re:Carlyle=techie (1)

Nethead (1563) | more than 4 years ago | (#28802979)

I would like to see the State build the data center. Worse case (and they'll probably do this anyway) is sell co-lo space to various local and county departments that need government level security for their servers and SANs. That is what Yakima County did when they built their space, built it as a co-lo and they were just another customer (for accounting.)

The model will not fit their software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28799757)

Does not cloud computing only support SAAS? Cloud is a buzz word for hosting with resource sharing.

Local government will have lots of heavy duty applications that process and store massive amounts of data (e.g. planning). For performance applications you cannot virtualize or put on a cloud. Resource sharing is only good if an application wants to share resources. If your are resource hungry you need dedicated physical machines.

Surely local government have all kinds of applications to provide that do not fit the cloud model.

Also privacy, and other issues like, what if the state is investigating the company hosting the data.

hey folks, I'm just sayin'..... (2, Informative)

Rep. Reuven Carlyle (1604397) | more than 4 years ago | (#28800729)

Ok, I'm not pretending the 'cloud' is the sole answer or even that there aren't legitimate privacy/security concerns about citizen data; I'm just making the case that: 1. the state's business case dismisses the entire cloud without any real analysis of where it may or may not be appropriate; 2. the $1,200 per sq/foot cost for state data center is probably closer to $2,000 in reality; 3. the $300M is for the data center 'shell' and doesn't include anything to fix old Cobalt databases, buy or build new applications, create an XML or other neutral interface to access trapped data, get our hands on real enterprise applications; 4. even if we want to have a state owned and operated facility, does it make sense to build in Olympia where labor, energy, building, etc. costs are all higher than in Eastern Washington? 5. if we had a fraction of the $300M to buy and build very cool customer oriented applications and services, we'd be the top state in the nation for on line service, but this data center is taking every penny we have for capital infrastructure for technology. Period. 6. as for comments above about audits--I'm all for it. I agree there are legitimate issues (privacy, security, audits, etc.) but come on, at least we should design a 21st Century strategy for a new approach to services instead of automatically assuming the only answer is a state owned and operated facility. I acknowledge that I'm more interested in front end citizen/consumer applications than back end infrastructure....but at least I admit it. I don't have all the answers, of course, just trying to raise some questions before $300M of the public's money is spent. Reuven Carlyle State Representative Washington State House of Representatives--36th District www.reuvencarlyle36.com

Amazon's HIPAA compliance white paper (1)

MarkWatson (189759) | more than 4 years ago | (#28800833)

You can find this on the web: encrypting data in S3, decrypting in memory right before use. HIPAA medical records privacy requirements are severe, so if the cloud can work for HIPAA, then it should work for government infrastructure.

Cloud hosting rocks, if you can use it (1)

MarkWatson (189759) | more than 4 years ago | (#28800913)

In the as year, I have been happy using Amazon EC2 (etc.), Google's Java AppEngine, and Heroku for web apps. Way better, if you can, to outsource scalability.

BTW, I use an Amazon Machine Image (AMI) for the examples for my last book. It took me almost 10 hours to get the software (Ruby, Rails, Sesame, Redland, Hadoop, Sphinx, Solr, etc., plus my example programs) set up on an AMI, but this is time well spent because now people who want to casually experiment with this stuff don't need to spend this time (an Amazon EC2 instance costs about 10 cents/hour).

In a similar way, software vendors like Sun, Oracle, etc. are offering test and evaluation AMIs. It is great to be able to try out a new Solaris build, a specific Oracle database, etc. without investing much time. AMIs would also be great for student projects, etc. If you haven't tried EC2, etc. it is worth the time to experiment with it.

The REAL question is: Why in Western Washingtom? (2, Insightful)

drainbramage (588291) | more than 4 years ago | (#28801545)

Pulling a straw man question out of their collective arse helps hide how bad a decision this is. Anyone see anything about large data centers being built in EASTERN Washington because of the very CHEAP electricity, lower property costs, and lower wages? I'm just amazed they aren't proposing this as another lid over I-5 further traumatizing traffic flow.

If the cloud goes down (1)

Bruha (412869) | more than 4 years ago | (#28803267)

The state would not be able to function. It happens, far more often than any of the 8 datacenters I work on have ever gone down. Wait.. none of them have ever gone down in 10 years.

You could lose a single service and that happens, no big deal.

Cloud goes down, EVERYTHING goes down.

They should consider that.

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