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246 comments

Silly President, streamlining's for wings (4, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882658)

Any Presidential administration that comes into the federal government promising to combat bureaucracy and duplication is either lying (most likely) or is truly epically deluded. No agency in the federal government is going to let some johnny-come-lately President who's going to be gone in 4-8 years come in and fundamentally change the way they've worked for 60 years or more. Oh sure, they'll TELL him they'll do it. They kiss the ass of their new director (aka his political toadie appointee, also to be gone in 4-8 years). But the most they'll *actually* do is stall, make token gestures, lie, and basically find other ways to run out the clock until the next administration comes in (with a whole new set bullshit streamlining promises). There are long-term professionals in these agencies who've been playing out that scenario since the Carter administration (maybe even some old Nixon/Ford guys).

Bill Clinton said it best (and I'm paraphrasing here) "The most shocking thing I discovered about the Presidency is that people don't do what you say."

Re:Silly President, streamlining's for wings (3, Insightful)

jonescb (1888008) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882810)

Bill Clinton said it best (and I'm paraphrasing here) "The most shocking thing I discovered about the Presidency is that people don't do what you say."

Isn't that how it's supposed to work? If everybody had to do as he said, we'd call the position Dictator instead of President. The president has very limited power, which is a good thing.

Re:Silly President, streamlining's for wings (3, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882934)

Yes, but most people assume the President has a lot more power than they actually do. You come in as President, you appoint a new director of agency X, you tell him to do such-and-such at that agency, he says okay, and then he goes off and doesn't do it. Your own cabinet will often lie to you, deceive you, outright ignore you, stall you, etc. And everyone is just waiting around for the day when you'll be gone (which they know will be, at most, 8 years from now). Any given federal employee is way more worried about covering their ass and sticking around for the long-term than with any directive you might issue. No one gives a shit about your campaign promises or legacy except you and maybe a few members of your cabinet. It's like being the captain of a boat on the very of mutiny--for 4-8 years.

Re:Silly President, streamlining's for wings (2, Interesting)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883360)

So fire them. Hire someone that will do as you say. CEO's do it in the real world every single day. And if there are laws in your way, get those changed first. Failing that, line-item-veto any spending for their salaries and wait for them to quit. Failing even that, use your executive ability to set their schedules to nil, or require them to report to Alaska, etc.

It really isn't that hard.

People made this same argument towards Ron Paul's campaign promises, and they failed to see the same simplicity of it. There are literally THRONGS of people waiting to get that paycheck the cushy government jobs offer. Use some turnover to get the desired result, but failing that use the powers of scheduling and compensation to achieve the same result. You know, those "executive" powers?

Re:Silly President, streamlining's for wings (3, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883428)

Most of the professional level federal employees are protected by laws and union contracts (only the director is an at-will employee that the President can hand his walking papers whenever he feels like it). That means you would have to go through Congress, and maybe even the courts, for the changes needed to just start firing people (or zeroing out their budgets). And good luck with that.

Re:Silly President, streamlining's for wings (2, Interesting)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882992)

Yes. But onne would expect that the career bureaucrats would take some pride in doing the best job that they can. The whole "We've been doing it this way for decades and when you're gone in 4 years, we'll still will be" is pure bullshit. We need some way to motivate them to pursue continuous process improvement. Then, the proper function of the administration is to watch over the operations and make policy decisions. Not nit-pick the data center architecture. On the other hand, when the administration calls the IT folks in to report on why they have 2000 data centers, they should be able to justify their design decision. Or have an ongoing program in place to bring the system into line with that design. Then, all the administration has to do is bless the plan and let them carry on.

Political appointees can't expect to micro-manage their departments. They need to delegate that to the long timers. What they need to do is to keep the fire lit under them. And if the carrot of pride in a job well done isn't motivation enough, then the stick of outsourcing it all to private industry and tossing the whole bunch out on their ass needs to be a valid option.

Re:Silly President, streamlining's for wings (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883000)

That's how it's supposed to work overall. That's not how it's supposed to work within the Executive Branch, of which the President is the head officer. When your boss gives you a legal order, you're supposed to obey it.

Re:Silly President, streamlining's for wings (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883250)

*Everybody* isn't supposed to do what he says, then he'd be a dictator. Everyone who works for the executive branch of the government is supposed to to follow his work related policies, just as you are expected to follow the policies of the president of your company. He's the head of the executive branch, he has a reasonable expectation that his employees will do what he tells them too. They don't. At the levels below the political appointees they weasel around doing the minimum possible to appease whoever the current boss is while changing as little as they possibly can.

This is both a blessing and a curse. It means, on the bright side, that when the guy you disagree with is in power (in my case Bush, perhaps in your case Obama, or even both, it doesn't really matter) he can't really do as much damage as he'd like. On the down side, when the guys you agree with is in power, he can't really fix anything either. The President is theoretically the chief of the Executive Branch, in charge of the majority of the federal bureaucracy. In reality, while he certainly wields some power, the bureaucrats rule the bureaucracy... the President is just a figure head. (Note that Presidents do wield tremendous amounts of power, if nothing else the military *does* take their orders quite seriously, just that in this particular instance it's not as much power as it seems at first blush).

Re:Silly President, streamlining's for wings (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883398)

At the levels below the political appointees they weasel around doing the minimum possible to appease whoever the current boss is while changing as little as they possibly can.

Is it really that different in private businesses (except that the boss might stay a bit longer)?

Re:Silly President, streamlining's for wings (1)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883308)

A good thing? That most of the *actual* power lies with a bunch of people who are not only not democratically elected, but they stay right where they are for decades, through all changes at the supposed "top"?
I'm not so sure it's a good thing.

Re:Silly President, streamlining's for wings (1)

bberens (965711) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883408)

No, imho the POTUS is the CEO of the Executive branch. His orders should be followed in the same way as if the CEO of your current employer walked over to your office and told you to do something. Sure, sometimes things don't work out, are technically impossible, etc. But generally you'd better at least begrudgingly attempt to do what he wants. Otherwise what the heck is the point of electing him?

Re:Silly President, streamlining's for wings (-1, Troll)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882814)

Don't worry, the teabaggers, once they win power, will fix the problem. They'll just install a Prophet Emperor and do away with the Constitution. Anyone that doesn't do what the Prophet Emperor says will be treated with justice by the Lord himself.

Of course, the Lord will need to borrow the government's machine guns to implement that justice.

Re:Silly President, streamlining's for wings (4, Insightful)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882826)

In the case of Obama, I think he truly believed that he would be able to change things once he was in a position of "real" power. Except when he got elected, he found out that the president isn't a position of "real" power after all...you're hands are tied when it comes to MANY things.

I don't think his promises have been broken, so much as had reality injected in them.

Re:Silly President, streamlining's for wings (0, Troll)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882944)

You give the man a lot of credit, and I do not really understand why. Why would you assume that a Democrat would actually want to change things? If you have not noticed, the Democrats represent the same philosophy on what America should be like as the Republicans do, with a few superficial differences.

Re:Silly President, streamlining's for wings (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882986)

I'm not talking about from a party standpoint, I mean just as an American Citizen standpoint.

From a party standpoint, I recognize that no one really wants things to change. As a person though, I honestly believe that he thought he could really make a difference. Note that this has nothing to do with what he's done since he got elected, nor does it have anything to do with my opinion of him now. I'm strictly referring to what I think made him want to be President in the first place.

Re:Silly President, streamlining's for wings (3, Interesting)

tnk1 (899206) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882996)

And, to be honest, its one reason I didn't vote for him. As soon as I understood that he had no idea how the government actually works, I knew the only thing that was going to happen was that he was going to simply add to the government. Not because he's some sort of big government liberal, but because adding to the government is all that the bureaucracy lets you do without specialized knowledge of how the bureaucracy works.

The Tea Party people really have no chance either. Their only value in my mind is that they will gridlock the addition of more crap to the government. I have more sympathy with their aims, but I know full well that outsiders have no chance at meaningful change unless it is accomplished via tearing down the whole edifice.

The real challenge is not throwing the bums out or creating "Change", its finding knowledgeable insiders who know how to get things done in the bureaucracy. People who can ease out the holdouts from their fiefdoms, who can soothe the Civil Service unions, and who can gain the trust of multiple administrations so that they have the ability to actually do something worth doing. I almost think that as soon as the President wins an election, he or she needs to go and campaign at every federal office building and get those people on his side.

Re:Silly President, streamlining's for wings (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883354)

Of course they have no meaningful chance, not with folks like you voting for gridlock. I mean seriously, if people would vote for the candidate that was sincerely interested in good policy and willing to make compromises to get it, there would be change. What President Obama failed to appreciate is all the numb nuts out there that are voting specifically for the candidate that's going to cause the most damage to the federal government.

Which is really the only reason why the tea party movement is even in the press. There's a lot of people out there that are comfortable cutting off the nose to spite the face. Never mind that the original tea party had precisely zip to do with taxation, and everything to do with ditching the competitors product so that they wouldn't have any competition.

Re:Silly President, streamlining's for wings (2, Interesting)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883468)

I should have saved my earlier post for you, because perhaps you'll be able to explain it to me...

Let's take a concrete example or three. I'll propose some executive solutions to the problems, and you tell me why it won't work:

1) End the wars. President uses Commander-in-Chief authority to redeploy every single unit, or just the desired units, to the United States, effective immediately. Anyone not obeying the order will be brought up for court martial. Failing that, simply veto any spending bills until they run out of money.

2) End "Department of X". Dismiss and/or reassign every appointee, refuse to nominate any new candidates. Failing that, set their home office in ANWAR and refuse to reimburse any mileage, due to the economy, of course.

3) Eliminate the Deficit. Veto, veto, veto. Line-item-veto, even. Signing statements stating that funding starts out at zero dollars this year and increases to the figures on the bill one year after the bill is no longer valid, or one year after the Union no longer exists, which ever comes last. Failing that, refuse to even read any more bills until you get what you want on your desk.

Who would have the power to stop any of this? The next President, maybe, but that's about it. There's nothing in the Constitution that says the commander has to do any of these things, and no one has the power to force any of it to happen either. So long as the President made his intentions entirely clear to the people, and as long as they supported his behavior, I imagine that no one would have the political will to oppose it either.

Re:Silly President, streamlining's for wings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33883520)

The Tea Party people really have no chance either. Their only value in my mind is that they will gridlock the addition of more crap to the government. I have more sympathy with their aims, but I know full well that outsiders have no chance at meaningful change unless it is accomplished via tearing down the whole edifice.

Um, you do realize Tea Partiers are nothing but a rebrand of Neo-Conservatism, right? It's not a grass roots organization or a public sentiment, it's a carefully crafted, bought and paid for marketing bait-and-switch. Bush made Conservatism a bad word because he outspent everyone before him *combined*.

  So what makes you think that the tea partiers will gridlock anything? They will do exactly as they did from 2000 to 2008. They'll spend money like a teenager with their parent's credit card, completely ignore responsibility for their failures, and probably pick more fights with tiny little dustbowl countries just so that they can test out their battle tactics and new expensive toys. The Tea Party people lost (as in misplaced decimal point, bags falling off trucks, etc) more money than most parts of the government spend in an entire decade.

Re:Silly President, streamlining's for wings (1)

Minwee (522556) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883440)

Perhaps he should have done his homework [yes-minister.com] so that he might have more realistic expectations [tvtropes.org].

He might also be able to use simple civil service phrases like "Unfortunately, although the answer was indeed clear, simple, and straightforward, there is some difficulty in justifiably assigning to it the fourth of the epithets you applied to the statement, inasmuch as the precise correlation between the information you communicated and the facts, insofar as they can be determined and demonstrated, is such as to cause epistemological problems, of sufficient magnitude as to lay upon the logical and semantic resources of the English language a heavier burden than they can reasonably be expected to bear" in every day conversation.

Re:Silly President, streamlining's for wings (0, Troll)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882874)

Bill Clinton said it best (and I'm paraphrasing here) "The most shocking thing I discovered about the Presidency is that people don't do what you say."

I don't think he was referring to exactly the same scenario as you are. Your "people" is composed of long term government employees, his is composed of females.

Re:Silly President, streamlining's for wings (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882960)

stall, make token gestures, lie, and basically find other ways to run out the clock until the next administration comes in...

Or as Sir Humphrey Appleby said:
"Indeed it is, beyond question, at the appropriate juncture, in due course, in the fullness of time."

Re:Silly President, streamlining's for wings (3, Interesting)

gumbi west (610122) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882972)

The President can do a lot, he just has to sick someone else on the topic like a bull dog. He also has to be really picky about his battles.

I can think of many examples from situations I know of.

Exmaples:

  • under Bush, the administration did manage to decrease the number of payroll offices substantially and keep (mainly) the the good ones, and decreased the travel authorization/reimbursement IT systems to the less crappy ones (btw private industry guys, is there such a thing as a good travel authorization/reimbursement system?).
  • Clinton decreased the number of senior executives (people making about $140,000 in DC) substantially while increasing the number of minority senior executives.
  • Clinton, with Gore's help, increased the number of contractors in the civilian services. He did this not by forcing contracting on the government agencies, but by making a process and forcing them to look at some of their employees every year.
  • Bush, with Rumsfeld's help, increased the number of contractors in the military. Not sure how this worked, it might have all been from the top.

You have to realize, the US government is too large to control from DC. It works best when there is central minimum requirements that vary with the task at hand and how you meet them is left up to some local manager.

Re:Silly President, streamlining's for wings (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883406)

Precisely, there's a lot of things which genuinely have bipartisan support, and those are the things you focus on first.

That's not to say that you ignore the other ones, we're going to be permanently in debt unless we allow the Bush tax cuts to expire for the high earners, and we're going to have to cut government spending on defense to fund education and jobs programs. We're going to have to force companies that send jobs overseas to book profits before they book deductions like ones that are located and functioning in the US.

Re:Silly President, streamlining's for wings (1)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883092)

Ever seen "Yes, Minister"? Bureaucracy outlives the elected politicians, and usually has more entrenched power. If you want to make a real change to government you destroy bureaux first.

Re:Silly President, streamlining's for wings (1)

Pteraspidomorphi (1651293) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883316)

I was precisely thinking of that series while reading this thread! It's a very educational comedy.

Re:Silly President, streamlining's for wings (1)

Kurofuneparry (1360993) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883366)

Great comment. The President's power is supposed to be limited. Even within his own branches he/she has to be a leader and know how to play the game.

The real problem is this: bureaucracies fail to make changes because our current budgetary system allows their budget to only go upward and they know that their jobs are safe despite incompetence. In fact, the building of bureaucratic duplication and inefficiency helps to guarantee their job security. So is the situation hopeless? NO! There are proven methods that have worked in the past.

I was disappointed (as always) that each party didn't consider their best options in presidential primaries. Romney (R) and Richardson (D) had demonstrated that they knew how to shrink state budgets and trim bureaucracy. Yes, such tools exist: hiring freezes, retrograde budgets (go back to 2008 levels etc.), outsourcing to contractors, shifting responsibilities to less bloated departments (shell game), borrowing effective systems straight from other states (helped my state's education system greatly) , and a host of other methods that work. Hopefully we'll be able to trim the really big problems: pensions, entitlements, and bureaucratic inefficiency but this will require a return to the methods that have worked in the past.

then again, I'm an idiot.......

Hmmm (5, Funny)

c0mpliant (1516433) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882704)

Why do I get the image of an Indiana Jones style character pulling back overgrown bushes and thorns to reveal the long Lost Temple of Data Storage...

Possibly being chased by some legacy system throwing strange errors at him while he trying to escape a rolling ball of ethernet cables

Re:Hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33882956)

You know for sys admins that is a reason to be proud, I mean, the machines worked so well, they don't even register at all.

Not like windows where you're aware of every little thing that goes wrong, making it harder to maintain than a pack of neurotic chihuahuas.

Big company (3, Insightful)

captaindomon (870655) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882708)

Eh, if you've worked in a multi-billion dollar F100 company this isn't surprising at all. Any random department can buy a couple of servers and set up their own "data center", and when you have 100,000 employees, it's hard to keep track of. Now imagine you are a multi-trillion dollar company, which is basically what the federal government is, with three million employees. Things get complicated.

Re:Big company (2, Informative)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882906)

Your "couple of servers" probably doesn't meet the criteria for counting in this case:

"""
The process defined a data center as any room larger than 500 square feet dedicated to data processing that meets the one of the four tier classifications defined by The Uptime Institute.
"""

Now you could put a couple of servers in a 500 square feet room, but that seems pretty unlikely.

Re:Big company (2, Interesting)

mtmra70 (964928) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883112)

Your "couple of servers" probably doesn't meet the criteria for counting in this case:

I work at a F100 company and we have two data centers which are larger than 500sq/ft and house at least 100 physical boxes and a couple SANs each, yet the company/IT doesn't count them as part of their normal data center strategy. If you asked global IT if we had data centers at our site, they would say "nope".

Re:Big company (4, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883196)

You do realize that 500 sq. feet is just over a 22 foot square room. That's not that big at all. I've often seen small "data centers" of this size in government buildings. Granted, I live in Canada, but I imagine the US is the same. Each little organizational unit wants to manage all their own stuff to increase their importance, and make it look like they are doing something. So they all have their own little data center. It's all to play their little game. If you don't spend your whole budget, then they figure you don't need the money, so the following year they cut it. If you do spend it all, then you can claim that you are underfunded and possibly get your budget raised. There's always a mad rush at the end of the fiscal year to ensure that all the money is spent.

Re:Big company (1)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883424)

A 500SF room will hold a UPS, CRAC unit, PDU, and 16 racks, if there is no raised floor. If you add in a 12" raised floor, you are down to space for 12 racks. While more than a "couple servers," it is one logical planning block up from a 200SF room, and you will see government organizations justify it for something needing a rack or two of networking equipment plus two racks of servers thinking this is the only time they will ever get money for their pet project.

What would be more telling is the space breakdown, PUE and total kW demand for the data centers; while they likely doubled the quantity the space likely only grew by 15-20% and the demand by 5-10%.

Don't know who you work for (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882942)

but if it appears on our network without previous authorization all hell breaks loose. Whether from internal or external auditors to just the network people freaking out. SOX reporting pretty much insures anything for us that can store information, even in transition, is documented, accounted for, and has its approvals all in order.

No, government is in a league of its own, there number of redundant programs and such is probably worthy of three to five years worth of investigation. They don't answer to anyone because no one bothers. A bunch of little kingdoms with no accountability because their budget entry is buried

Re:Big company (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883032)

Not on my network they don't. Nobody plugs anything into my network without IT involvement. And you may ask yourself "why" I would be such a BOFH. Because I need to know what VLAN to put the device in. No port is hot, unless I say it is hot. No device gets access unless I approve it and configure it to the right VLAN.

There would be no rogue servers. Anyone caught putting in a rogue server would be reported up the proper chain. It isn't hard to keep track of anything, if you keep track of everything. If you can't keep track of some things, you can't keep track of anything. Not really.

Re:Big company (1)

iammani (1392285) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883206)

Unless someone working for you enables the port and configures it to the VLAN, without actually counting it as an additional server.

The point GP was making is that if you are the only person to authorize port enablement and VLAN configuration, your network will be completely under your control. It is when you start authorising other people to start doing this stuff (which will have to happen in a large org (and no a one man IT is not an option)), things dont stay under your control.

Re:Big company (1)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883318)

Dealing somewhat with classified networks, I can say that a BOFH wouldn't have any clue what servers a given program might be using. You might have a single subnet provided for the room, but that is all. Security is compartmentalized, which means you get exactly the information you need to do your job and nothing else. Each program controls their internal and external links pretty much, and if they can figure out a way to physically get a new rack in the room, and can hook up a breaker and some SO cord it will be up and running in no time.

It isn't the right way to do things, but from the security perspective sometimes it is the only practical solution.

Re:Big company (1)

GenP (686381) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883526)

How do you detect a port that's been "repurposed" to be the head-end of a bunch of NATed machines?

Rogue IT is not must for big companies (1)

dcavanaugh (248349) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883084)

Anywhere you have IT governance that delivers more policies than solutions, rogue IT fills the gap.

In the case of the Federal government, I can imagine this getting out of hand. I wonder how many virtual machines are sitting there in the Amazon cloud quietly doing the government's business?

If Only ... (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882718)

If only they had some sort of facility that could house devices that could hold lists of things they could do a better job of keeping track of these types of places. Alas, some day I won't just be a dreamer ...

"hehe" (1)

phyrexianshaw.ca (1265320) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882730)

"Oh, HERE they are! silly buggers, I though you ran away!"

seriously though, stuff like this DOES happen. the UK Government just shut down what, hundreds of websites that they didn't even know they had been paying for?

sprawl != organised.

Re:"hehe" (1)

VJ42 (860241) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883184)

"Oh, HERE they are! silly buggers, I though you ran away!" seriously though, stuff like this DOES happen. the UK Government just shut down what, hundreds of websites that they didn't even know they had been paying for? sprawl != organised.

Indeed, but at least our government was able to shut them down - if a tenth of what I read about the US government is true (admittedly unlikely since most comes from places like /.), the President would have had a political fight on his hands to do the same. Seriously, the more I read about the alternatives, the more I like the Westminster system. Sure it could do with some tweaks (mostly in the way we vote), but in practice it's one of the best ways to run a representative democracy such as the US or UK.

Whats a datacenter? (2, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882732)

Whats a datacenter?

As a fedgov employee (US Army) in the early 90s I had two big green unisys btos machines each with three terminals running a database Admittedly no outside world connection except 110V AC but the terminal things did have at least a hundred feet of cable. For the purposes of this report, would by old office be defined as a "datacenter"?

Re:Whats a datacenter? (3, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882776)

I see the same sort of confusion over the term "server room." At my institution, all sorts of weird things are "server rooms" -- everything from a dedicated room with rows of rackmounts, backup power, HVAC, etc. to a closet with a few switches and a NAS in it. How many server rooms do we have? Who knows? I would not be surprised if many of these "data centers" turned out to be nothing more than a single rack in a field office somewhere.

Re:Whats a datacenter? (1)

seigniory (89942) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882958)

From TFA: "The process defined a data center as any room larger than 500 square feet dedicated to data processing..."

Re:Whats a datacenter? (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883058)

  1. You must be new here, you expected us to RTFA
  2. 500 square feet is not a lot, I am pretty sure my high school had a server room about that size (for clarity: this was a "server room" in the sense that it housed all of the old desktops that had been repurposed as servers, and some networking equipment; you wouldn't recognize it as a server room otherwise). The CS department at my current institution has a server room that looks about that size (10'x50'), and that is just for the department itself.

Re:Whats a datacenter? (1)

Himring (646324) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883126)

Yes, and I think that's a ridiculous measure. 500 sf? Our main "data center" is less than that by a bit, and by god, it's a data center, because it gets all the attention and equipment needed to stay up, be cool and be protected. I don't think the size of the company should dictate the size of the room. A far smaller room or space can hold any amount of critical data or infrastructure. Technicians with little oversight, will pile main servers under their desk.

I gamble that if they stopped looking at physical rooms, and focused on nodes, that number would soar well beyond a couple thousand....

Re:Whats a datacenter? (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883234)

I take the opposite view, to be honest -- I think they might be overcounting a bit, or at least misusing the term "data center." A field office with a couple dozen servers in a back room is not a "data center," and I am not certain that there is much to be gained by consolidating such an office into a large data center elsewhere. I think the consolidation plan should focus more on creating a uniform infrastructure, so that employees of a given department can log in and get their work done regardless of which office they happen to be in. Servers in a local office could be useful to keep things running in the event of a failure (uplink to a WAN goes down, central data center has an outage, etc.), or to reduce latency for commonly accessed databases.

Re:Whats a datacenter? (1)

Himring (646324) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883334)

There is power in distribution, and there can be common-mode failure when all is consolidated....

Re:Whats a datacenter? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883326)

From TFA: "The process defined a data center as any room larger than 500 square feet dedicated to data processing..."

Yeah but thats just an article. I mean, what really is a data center, the article can't possibly be correct.

I believe by the article definition we had two psuedo-datacenters, the btos machines and their terminals fit in a room with about eight desks (hmm, 8 keyboards and 8 crts, I sense a pattern here) plus the usual storage cabinets for backup tapes, a couple printer stands and stuff. And a "station" for barcode readers and printers. Well over 25x25 feet. But lets face it, it was just an office that happened to have computers.

The other "data center" was basically a govt issue mobile home with slide outs. Painted army green of course. Probably 500 sq feet, that's only 50 ft long (sounds about right) by 10 wide (easily with the slideouts). The desks, as I recall (almost 20 years ago) went lengthwise up against each wall with a narrow walkway in the middle. In fact if the slideouts were not slid out, it was almost impossible to walk the length of the trailer / home / RV / whatever you call it. The air conditioning was nice when we were in the field in the summer, making it an annoyingly popular place for the officers to hang out (otherwise we never saw them).

MAP PARENT UP (1)

BenEnglishAtHome (449670) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883060)

According to the article, linked memo, and linked data center tier definition, the meanest little closet holding a box with blinking lights is a "data center". The survey referenced does limit them to over 500 square feet but even that number can be kinda meaningless.

At this moment, I'm sitting on the other side of the wall from a "data center" for a major TLA. It was once a monstrosity with dozens of Pyramids the size of refrigerators, racks of Windows-based servers for files and email, and a few dozen Unix servers that I administered.

Through consolidation and virtualization to larger data centers, it's lost nearly everything. Two file servers sit in a rack in the middle of a gigantic room with a raised floor, cooling, and excellent redundant power. There's also one tower-format file server. Technically, it's a data center. In real life, it's three servers sitting in the middle of thousands of empty square feet. At least it was until a couple of weeks ago; we've chained off the area into separate rooms for other uses and other departments, so the server rack now sits in about 500 square feet.

When the hardware in the rack fails, it won't be replaced; it'll be virtualized elsewhere. At that point, the one server that must remain can be put into a glorified closet with a good lock on the door and we'll no longer have a "data center". All this is a result of consolidation efforts that have been going on for years at my agency.

I wonder how many of the data centers in the fine article are equally as far from what most people think of when you say "data center"?

MAP????? (1)

BenEnglishAtHome (449670) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883510)

Apparently, I can't spell "MOD". Or maybe I've been doing so many drive mappings this morning that I've just got "map" on the mind.

Sheesh...

Re:Whats a datacenter? (1)

Rennt (582550) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883182)

TFA: "The process defined a data center as any room larger than 500 square feet dedicated to data processing that meets the one of the four tier classifications defined by The Uptime Institute."

A Tier-1 facility is a server room or closet with basic power and cooling. If you have any kind of redundancy or failover that kicks you up to Tier-2.

So really, any lights-out environment over 500 feet qualifies.

I lost a datacenter (5, Funny)

Dancindan84 (1056246) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882740)

...literally _lost_. The servers respond to ping, work completely. I just can't figure out where in the country it is.

Re:I lost a datacenter (2, Insightful)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882836)

I've never been involved in data center-ing, but call whomever owns the last jump to it (and presumably has records of the cables running to it) and ask?

Re:I lost a datacenter (5, Informative)

Dancindan84 (1056246) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882876)

Not sure if you're serious, but my comment was just a reference to http://bash.org/?5273 [bash.org]

Re:I lost a datacenter (1)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883170)

To be fair, I read that quote, and thought about it while posting. Why it didn't "click" that you where kidding, I don't know.

Re:I lost a datacenter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33883442)

The most embarrassing thing about this thread: you apparently read bash.org

Re:I lost a datacenter (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33882900)

I've never been involved in data center-ing, but call whomever owns the last jump to it (and presumably has records of the cables running to it) and ask?

He's not serious. It is a quote from bash.org:

  hm. I've lost a machine.. literally _lost_. it responds to ping, it works completely, I just can't figure out where in my apartment it is.

Re:I lost a datacenter (1)

Keruo (771880) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882922)

That wouldn't work with project blackbox datacenters. You could just load the thing on a flatbed and drive off.
Network would fallback to 3G or satellite uplink and your servers would be happily crunching onboard while your truck heads down the open road..

Re:I lost a datacenter (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33882946)

Have you checked behind the dry wall? [theregister.co.uk]

what a horrible idea (3, Insightful)

Surt (22457) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882752)

Why don't we provide a small number of locations, the destruction of any of which would significantly cripple our government. I can't imagine who would find such a consolidation helpful to their goals.

Re:what a horrible idea (1)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882918)

Just because you have a lot of them, doesn't mean they're redundant or in any way coordinated.

Most are probably just a local chief/commander/boss saying "we need XYZ, get us some computers".

I can see some serious redundancy in DOD computers; basically you want each field unit to have some data center capability in case the grid goes down. They need to be able to run their own affairs at the very least.

But entities like the VA and the Education folks? They don't really need redundancy to any great extent; a few mirrored datacenters around the country should work fine.

good luck and Godspeed (1)

alen (225700) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882780)

i did a 1 year contracting stint at a US Army Corps of Engineers office 10 years ago. the DC was less than 10 servers in a closet for 140 people. the local offices had more people and more servers. in a few cases the local IT people refused to go with the mandated domain plan and kept separate domains. word was that the managers couldn't make them do it either. this was back in the NT4 days. with Windows 2003 and 2008 it's a lot easier to consolidate the domains and data centers but in the end they will have to force the local IT people to give up passwords so they can consolidate things. think the idiot from SF type problems

Were they lost? (1)

iONiUM (530420) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882794)

I don't understand how you can "find" data centers? Can someone explain that to me.

Re:Were they lost? (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882856)

It's kind of like in Civ... Obama sent out some explorers and a friendly tribe of Inupiats gave them a data center.

Re:Were they lost? (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882872)

Have you ever seen IT infrastructure in an organization where departments can make independent purchasing decisions? It is very easy for a department to purchase some servers for themselves, put them in a closet, and suddenly you have a server room that nobody is aware of. I saw it all the time when I was an undergrad, and I see it all the time now as a grad student.

It was not that these systems were "lost," but rather that they were not accounted for. I am not surprised -- various departments, subdepartments, field offices, and so forth probably bought computers at various points in time over the past 30 years, and nobody bothered to keep track of where those computers were being installed (they were probably only required to report what they purchased and what the price was). The report was probably corrected because they missed a bunch of smaller data centers the first time around, or perhaps because there was confusion over what should be called a "data center" (does any server room count? what if it is just a closet with a handful of computers in it?).

Re:Were they lost? (1)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883002)

I've got a small home network. It has a handful of IP cameras, a few access points, some wifi gadgets, a couple of laptops, and 3 "regular" computers.

As everything works, it's not unusual for me to lose track of some gadget after a year or two, or to notice a "new" gadget that's actually been there.

Now imagine that you have a 10,000 of these sorts of setups, but each has 1,000 nodes. And each has an admin or a group of admins that do what they need to to make their management happy. And now move the admins around every 2-4 years like the military does.

Get the idea?

Re:Were they lost? (1)

teridon (139550) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883210)

It's easy -- you ask people you've never asked before: "Hey, do you have any data centers?". In other words, no one was keeping track before. Missions/projects setup data centers as-needed, but were not required to report them as a new "data center" to anyone.

I don't think it's surprising to find that the estimate was wrong. I know that where I work, funding plays a huge part in the creation of "islands" of IT resources. Every project pays for their own resources, and no one wants to share. Until this data center consolidation effort, there was no real impetus for creating pooled data centers.

Oblig Bash.org quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33882840)

hm. I've lost a machine.. literally _lost_. it responds to ping, it works completely, I just can't figure out where in my apartment it is.

http://bash.org/?5273

Better check those servers (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33882860)

Hmm, I wonder if any of them host the lost Bush Administration emails? :)

How to save money. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33882880)

Federal government salary and compensation levels have systematically crept up over the last 20 years to to point that they are now 30% to 100% of comparable public sector jobs. How about freezing salaries for 10 years or so until inflation brings them more inline. It is crazy that Federal employees got a 1% raise this year in an environment of near zero inflation and high unemployment.

Your taxes at work (3, Insightful)

hessian (467078) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882904)

In a normal business, you serve a client.

In government, the client is yourself, and you must "justify" that position with lots of public activity.

That activity does not need to be effective, it only needs to look effective. By definition, there's less risk in ineffective activity.

This is why government is often ineffective, and why both left and right wing parties want to streamline it.

Accountability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33883052)

Moreover, it's a lot easier to exploit your cash flow for personal gain when accountability doesn't get in the way. Every year the US government fails to properly account for billions of dollars in cash flow. Gee, I wonder where that money ended up -- it certainly wasn't used to fix the roads I'm driving on.

geez (1)

tscheez (71929) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882910)

From the way the headline reads, you'd think they went on some sort of archeological exploration or something.

Really a good idea (2, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882966)

My impression is that in most cases, consolidation can reduce apparent IT costs, but produces a not just centralized computers but a centralized bureaucracy.

And when you have a centralized bureaucracy, the individual agencies will be subject to data centers that act on their "requests" more slowly if at all. (Note that when you lose control over your data center, what used to be an order now becomes a request.)

In general, it seems like centralizing things can help with some issues, but creates a boatload of other issues.

The other 1000 Datacenters were found... (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882970)

...underneath the Carribbean Sea built amongst the lost City of Atlantis.

Seriously, how could the US Government NOT know about or keep track of their own infrastructure and resources??? ;-)

"let's just use one datacenter for everything" (1)

NYMeatball (1635689) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882976)

This is what would happen if my "boss" was in charge of this initiative.

(Superceding other hits as: "Let's just use one database", "Let's just make that field bigger", and "just guess")

Terrorists (1)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883048)

Sure makes it hard for terrorists to target key data centers if the government doesn't even know how many they have or where they are.

Obama is just playing right into the hands of the terrorists...

1000 more datacenters? (3, Informative)

Lookin4Trouble (1112649) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883116)

Yes, OMB changed what they consider a "datacenter" - previous Datacall regarded anywhere that had 5 servers, a switch, and a router as a datacenter. Now they've lowered the bar to (3 Servers) -or- (1 server + 1 switch) -or- (1 switch + 1 router) -or- (1 server + 1 router). Frankly, I'm surprised the number only roughly doubled, I would've thought there were a LOT more sites with a server, switch, router setup...

Welcome to Virginia! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33883220)

Massive Data Center Consolidation = VITA = awful mess

"data center" (1)

plcurechax (247883) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883244)

Remember that their definition of "data center" is more than a little self-serving, it can include any re-purposed office closet or "server room" in any of the tens of thousands of government offices in the thousands of government buildings.

Want to get rid of data centers? Add walls. (1)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883356)

The requirement for "data center" is 500 sq. feet. So all they need to do is cut them into smaller blocks (eg, shipping containers, or just moving the walls), and suddenly, although it's now more "data centers" each one won't qualify, and so will reduce the count.

Or, we change the usage of the rooms -- that stack of cases of paper in the corner? That room's no longer 'devoted to data processing', and therefore, not a 'data center'. We already store spare parts in our 'not a data center' (also, my boss's office, but when we move, he won't be co-located, so I don't know if it'll be added to the count), but someone might argue those parts are indirectly for 'data processing'.

And poof ... data centers magically disapear, for loss money than it'd cost to consolidate, without all of the headaches. (okay, the walls could create dust, which the machines might not like ... the cases of paper is potentially a less risky option).

Not so impressive. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33883402)

I'd be more impressed if they found the two back-up Federal Governments, and the President-Alternate.

"What is a datacenter?" (2, Insightful)

AMuse (121806) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883448)

Before everyone gets all spun up on government waste, inefficiency, etc - I'd like to point out that numbers like these are never accurate. (For the record, I work for the feds, in the IT field).

The problem with "The feds have X datacenters" as a metric is that various audits occur at different times and by different auditors. These auditors almost always have differing definitions for what a datacenter actually is.

In one audit, a group can come through and define "Datacenter" as a big room where servers are co-located and services run on behalf of others. They'll find 2 at my center. Then a year later, a different group comes in and defines "Datacenter" as anywhere that more than 5 computers are running and left on all night. They'll find 200 at my center. Yes, this actually happened! The auditors came through dozens of science labs, found project servers sitting in the labs, and labeled each lab a datacenter.

Now here is the trick to why the statistics are complete mush. A normal IT guy would walk through the lab and say "Hey, that server should be in a datacenter!" -- but the auditors make the reverse conclusion. "Hey, this lab is a datacenter".

Yes, there is waste in the federal sphere and we absolutely need to take action to be more efficient at all levels. However, this article is basically pushing a number that came from someones' imagination, and pretending it's meaningful.

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