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US Government Data Center Count Rises To 7,000

timothy posted about a year ago | from the pretty-soon-you're-talking-real-money dept.

Government 48

miller60 writes "The U.S. government keeps finding more data centers. Federal agencies have about 7,000 data centers, according to the latest stats from the ongoing IT consolidation process. The number started at 432 in 1999, but soon began to rise as agencies found more facilities, and exploded once the Obama administration decided to include server closets as well as dedicated data centers. The latest estimate is more than double the 3,300 facilities the government thought it had last year. The process has led to the closure of 484 data centers thus far, with another 855 planned over the next year. The GAO continues to call for the process to look beyond the number of facilities and focus on savings."

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48 comments

"Focus on the savings." (4, Insightful)

houstonbofh (602064) | about a year ago | (#44382633)

Yep. The saving of all of your data transmitted over the internet, or on a cell phone. Lots of saving going on.

YMMV (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44382641)

The number started at 432 in 1999, but soon began to rise as agencies found more facilities, and exploded once the Obama administration decided to include server closets as well as dedicated data centers.

Much ado about nothing. Looks like someone invested in virtualization got the ear of someone with influence at the GAO.

Re:YMMV (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#44382949)

The number started at 432 in 1999, but soon began to rise as agencies found more facilities, and exploded once the Obama administration decided to include server closets as well as dedicated data centers.

Much ado about nothing. Looks like someone invested in virtualization got the ear of someone with influence at the GAO.

It seems a little shortsighted to include all office service closets since there are good reasons to keep some data close to the people that work on it so the office doesn't need to shut down when their network connection goes down, plus they get much better fileserver performance on the LAN. Much better to have a replicated fileserver, AD controller, etc in a branch office so they can continue to work even without network connectivity.

If they shut down every server closet they may end up saving money on datacenters only to lose much more money in lost productivity.

Re:YMMV (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#44383599)

It's not 100%, but business class lines guarantee 99.9% connectivity. Not really a concern, or the cloud concept would've died long ago. Nobody walks over and pops in physical cds into their servers anymore I hope.

Re:YMMV (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#44383933)

It's not 100%, but business class lines guarantee 99.9% connectivity. Not really a concern, or the cloud concept would've died long ago. Nobody walks over and pops in physical cds into their servers anymore I hope.

I had 28 hours of downtime spanning 2 business days on my 99.9% T3 line a couple years ago when heavy rains flooded a junction box and took out both the T3 and backup T1's. We have a 10 gigabit pipe into our main fileserver, and now have a 100Mbit link to the internet. Having 700 users accessing files over a 100Mbit link would not give satisfactory performance, and a couple months of 10Gig internet bandwidth would cost more than a small server farm to provide local servers.

Re:YMMV (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#44393977)

The solution to your downtime that i've seen is to have a backup ISP basically with a dynamic DNS failover. Not simple by any means, but do-able. However hosting offsite at least eliminates the dynamic DNS failover piece. It's also true an entire data center can go down, so a part of an advanced redundancy plan for that is to have colo's spread out in geography. I really hope on a business line you don't pay by the gigabit, that would be vicious. And lastly, it makes perfect sense to have 1 local server in many cases with that being... the file server, preferably replicating to a colo for redundancy.

What should've happened in your case though, if the 99% guarantee was in your contract, is you should've called them on it and been compensated for breach of contract by the ISP.

Re:YMMV (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44384363)

You think the government pays for modern business class lines!?! You're funny!

We get about 98% --at best-- to the outside internet, and maybe about 99.5% on this installation's LAN. Most of the downtimes occur during peak operating hours, too. The LAN itself is fast enough, but we still only have a 2x T3 connection to the outside world that's shared by about 2000 employees.

Re:YMMV (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44393909)

The provider offers the guarantee not the government fucktard. Also, seems you like to make up things. I think I hear your mom calling.

depressingly common in industry also (3, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#44382651)

If you count every group of servers stashed in an office somewhere as a "data center", most big companies have thousands. Tech companies may take things slightly more seriously, but big non-tech companies have data scattered everywhere, often in poorly organized network drives full of Excel spreadsheets and Word docs. That's why you end up with things like a petrochemical company losing blueprints [slashdot.org] when an office moves and some random machines get lost in the shuffle.

Re:depressingly common in industry also (4, Interesting)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#44382771)

"If you count every group of servers stashed in an office somewhere as a "data center", most big companies have thousands. "

My office is officially a data center. One of our legacy 2000 servers, with only fan fan still working (barely), has been in my office since January while the main and secondary server rooms undergo renovation. With the fans dead, it makes for a pretty quiet office mate. It also gives me an excuse to keep my office's a/c cranked down low.

We also have a couple of servers that we're not sure where they are. They're on the network, they work fine, we just don't know where they're physically located anymore...

Re:depressingly common in industry also (3, Insightful)

sys_mast (452486) | about a year ago | (#44383265)

....Off topic, but in response to parents "lost" servers.

Since you know they are online you must have the IP. If you have any decent manageable switch gear you should be able to trace down what switch port it is connected to. At that point follow the cable.

The commands;
show mac
show arp
pipe into an include filter for the IP and MAC, those commands are your best friends ;)

Re:depressingly common in industry also (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44385997)

... or just trace mac ip...

(Assuming cisco gear, I can't imagine other vendors don't provide similar capabilities).

Re:depressingly common in industry also (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44386467)

My favorite part is when you find it on the switch, find the cable, follow it into a cable tray, back out under the floor of the facility, up a conduit in the wall and through a hole to the next server room with 300 other lines...Just shoot me.

Re:depressingly common in industry also (4, Insightful)

NatasRevol (731260) | about a year ago | (#44383267)

Have them beep until someone locates them.

Re:depressingly common in industry also (2)

Rude Turnip (49495) | about a year ago | (#44383559)

Chances are they are now drywalled in somewhere and inaccessible without a rooster bar.

Re:depressingly common in industry also (1)

LordWabbit2 (2440804) | about a year ago | (#44388873)

We had a similar situation, while working at a large bank we migrated all OUR stuff off of an old server onto a shiny new one. We thought we were the only ones using the server, so once we were done we switched it off. Got a call a couple of days later from across the country - please switch the server back on. Someone had written a C++ reporting tool for clearcase and deployed it to the machine, done some whack sort of configuration on the machine to get it to work. When we tried to migrate it to the new server it refused to work. No source code, no idea who had written it in the first place. So we plugged it back in and stuck it in a corner of the server room. AFAIK it's still sitting there spewing out one report a week and doing nothing else.

This just in (2)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year ago | (#44382665)

The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureauacracy. Slow news day on Slashdot? This is like saying "Congress is screwing up the country again." Well, duh. I could live in a cave and still call that one.

Re:This just in (1)

kermidge (2221646) | about a year ago | (#44385447)

Well, you know how it is. One day somebody figures it'd be handy to store some stuff, so some extra hard drives get bought. Then it'd be handy to set up an old machine to serve the stuff out instead of going in through somebody's shared folder. Then a few more hard drives are added, maybe a UPS. The assemblage is stuck in a corner, maybe next to someone's desk - hey, stick it in that closet down the hall, or in the copy-machine room, or in the unused whatever room next to the break room. Et voilà, a real live server is born. And in one fashion or another, if demand rises, it can even snowball from there, especially as projects come and go, and there's even more data to store... somewhere.

Maybe it's reasonable of them to want to find out just what they've got, scattered about here and there beyond what they know to be honest-to-God data centers with their own mailing addresses, power bills, and lease. I confess, were I in their shoes, I'd be curious also. Then add to that, how does one reasonably and efficiently evaluate what amounts of savings for what amounts of effort? There's also the question, if the data is worth keeping, to what extent would it be beneficial to be better able to share it? And what's the better and cheaper way to do that? Inquiring minds, and all that. It's not my biz, so my picture of it might be screwy, but the curiosity remains.

Re:This just in (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44386125)

Huh? This story is about reducing the number of data centers. The number didn't increase because they added a bunch, it increased because they started counting more things as data centers.

Isn't it basically a good idea to remove unnecessary data centers and combine facilities to reduce overhead? Isn't this an example of the government fixing a problem?

All Your Communications Are Belong To Us... (1)

dryriver (1010635) | about a year ago | (#44382669)

I guess that if you love intercepting & storing people's supposedly _private_ data, then you need more and more data centers to do that. ------ 50 years from now, high school students will be given an assignment to research our current "data interception craze", and those students will have a tough time understanding what happened in 2013. -----

Re:All Your Communications Are Belong To Us... (1)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#44382929)

This is more about ad-hoc/inefficient/poorly-maintained storage of stuff on scattered servers, not bulk storage.

The NSA, by contrast, actually has relatively few data centers, just a few large and well-provisioned ones. They're not storing your stuff on random Windows servers parked in the corner of an office, which is more what this initiative is trying to identify and reduce.

Will this be Obama's legacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44382673)

We had Clinton, master of the sex scandal. We had Bush, starter of unnecessary wars. We have Obama, supervising the agencies that spy on the people that elected him.

Why isn't he more vocal on this? Where are his calls to reform the spy agencies and protect the citizens of the USA?

His failure to control this situation will be his legacy.

Re:Will this be Obama's legacy? (1)

dryriver (1010635) | about a year ago | (#44382683)

>>> His failure to control this situation will be his legacy. - - I believe so too... unfortunately...=(

Re:Will this be Obama's legacy? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44382943)

His failure to control this situation will be his legacy.

He is controlling the situation, just not in a way you or I like.

Good News (0)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about a year ago | (#44382695)

Fortunately for the American, government workers are overall inefficient and bad at their jobs. Therefore, I would safely assume that 65% of these data centers are "down for maintenance" and another 30% are experiencing "technical difficulties", meaning the 5% of data centers are actually storing anything.

But alas, not all is lost. Since these government workers at the data centers have little/nothing to do, they hang out on Slashdot.

Where? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44382705)

I'm not convinced that count is correct. Anybody have a list of locations for all these data centers?

The list of network closets. (1)

oneiros27 (46144) | about a year ago | (#44382813)

I refuse to call it a list of 'data centers', because of their changing definition of what a 'data center' is, but you used to be able to get lists from data.gov ... unfortunately, they've now got so much stuff in there that it's hard to find much of anything. The project to shut everything down goes by the name FDCCI:

http://www.data.gov/search/node/FDCCI [data.gov]

Just one more (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44382707)

we'll have to burn to the ground for great justice.

fp TAco (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44382715)

World. GNAA members And/or distribute bombshell hit is part of the Fucking percent of distended. All I channel #GNAA on handy, you are free architecture. my when IDC recently gone Romeo and escape them by gone Romeo and influence, the

Server closets? (1)

HockeyPuck (141947) | about a year ago | (#44382727)

So for every local or branch office that has a WAN router and a domain controller is now the same as a 500,000 sq ft data center?

Re:Server closets? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44382781)

Sure sounds it's easy to "close some of them just by merging multiple closet contents into one closet....

Re:Server closets? (2)

mcalchera (1518515) | about a year ago | (#44382821)

According to the testimony by the General Services Administration's director [house.gov] , a data center is

now defined as “a closet, room, floor or building for the storage, management, and dissemination of data and information. Such a repository houses computer systems and associated components, such as database, application, and storage systems and data stores. A data center generally includes redundant or backup power supplies, redundant data communications connections, environmental controls (air conditioning, fire suppression) and special security devices housed in leased (including by cloud providers), owned, collocated, or stand-alone facilities.

Re:Server closets? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44387019)

So for every local or branch office that has a WAN router and a domain controller is now the same as a 500,000 sq ft data center?

Don't be a jerk. The article (and even the slashdot write up) don't say anything of the sort (for once). They do state that the government has redefined its criteria for considering a bunch of machines a data center. Actually this is a good thing.

If some harried worker can stuff things in a closet, or under a desk with no further adieu, then servers (and possibly important data) will collect there, until the predictable happens. Then none of it will be in a position for the kind of response a corporate style data center can come back with. Odds are it was placed in that closet due to the pain of getting it accepted by the data center. Now that they have to report and maintain their infrastructure just like a larger data center, they'll be far more inclined to shut down a server closet in favor of consolidating into a location that can do the job properly.

And with that consolidation, comes the ability to virtualize, cluster, backup, recover, and apply proper power management. Forcing all "computer closets" to become "data centers" probably will save us money, as I'm sure I'd get rid of a computer closet if I had to start writing up disaster recovery plans, plan a budget for redundant power supply, provide multiple network feeds, etc.

Just because it's government doesn't always mean it's bad. We might not agree with the re-branding a closet a data center, but we certainly don't take the time to really find out what's going on, so better to error on the side of caution and at least consider that it might be an improvement.

Server Closets? (1)

1s44c (552956) | about a year ago | (#44382765)

What do they mean by server closets? If it's less than 10 racks it certainly isn't a data center.

If they give it all to Amazon or Rackspace they could save a fortune. There is no way any government agency could run data centers for anything near what Amazon is charging.

Re:Server Closets? (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year ago | (#44383175)

10 racks can be 1000 servers.

I'd do it by some other criteria.

Re:Server Closets? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about a year ago | (#44383245)

That's the whole problem. American government services are being run on computers that aren't in a secure data center. They just take a box, put it on a server, give it a domain name, and Bob's your uncle. There are no backups being done. There's no backup generator. There aren't multiple upstream providers to ensure they are always connected to the outside world. Stuff that should be in proper data centers is just shoved away in a closet somewhere. With the number of servers they have, they should really be able to have a bunch (like 2 or 3 per state, depending on the state), and just have individual government entities run their servers out of there, or run them out of an already existing co-location facility.

Re:Server Closets? (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | about a year ago | (#44383371)

That might make sense for servers connected to the internet, not so much for the other 36 or so intranets that DIA alone manages, like SIPRNET, JWICS, etc.

Re:Server Closets? (1)

Kr1ll1n (579971) | about a year ago | (#44384919)

I would argue less than 100 racks.

10x48=480u (52 is max U's, but 42-48 is standard).

smallest servers are 1u.

1k servers can be a medium-size corporations server room, but not a datacenter, by any stretch of the imagination.

I don't see how this changes a whole lot. (1)

mcalchera (1518515) | about a year ago | (#44382775)

"The number started at 432 in 1999, but soon began to rise as agencies found more facilities, and exploded once the Obama administration decided to include server closets as well as dedicated data centers. The latest estimate is more than double the 3,300 facilities the government thought it had last year." So basically by redefining what they consider a data center, there was an "explosion" in the statistics. Except they were already paying for all 7000 data centers. If anything, this should make closing and consolidating easier since the departments now have a better idea of the equipment that's out there.

and yet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44382841)

they are completely useless in stopping known terrorists from carrying out attacks.

Re:and yet (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about a year ago | (#44383151)

Just because you think their target are terrorists. They are pretty efficient on their real target, everyone except government and associates.

wtf (1)

fazey (2806709) | about a year ago | (#44383457)

You know... I would really like for them to not be able to use my tax dollars to track me. It's rather insulting really...

U.S. Veterans Medical database? (1)

jeff13 (255285) | about a year ago | (#44383925)

Tell me, with all this and the news of the massive NSA metadata trolling (even outsourcing to private companies), can anyone explain to me why U.S. veterans are waiting for years just to have their medical claims even looked at let alone processed in even the smallest way?

Anyone? Anyone at all?

Re:U.S. Veterans Medical database? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44384089)

It takes years to search 7000 data centers?

Re:U.S. Veterans Medical database? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44385895)

The VA doesn't have the budget* in order to fully staff its customer service activities.

* - I'm sure if they did a ground up examination and eliminated duplicate or wasteful spending, the VA could modernize and staff those activities. But this is the Federal govt who is wasting $700million on a marketing Obamacare. It's not going to happen anytime soon.

Consolidation doesn't always save money (2)

CanadianMacFan (1900244) | about a year ago | (#44384515)

I was working in one department of the government and we were building our own data centre around 2004 because the cost of using the shared services (the group set up for all departments to share IT infrastructure) was astronomical. It was far cheaper for us to build our own data centre, put in new servers, and hire the support staff. Basically the people running the shared services thought that they could charge what ever they wanted because the departments were not able to outsource to anyone else. And with them thinking that they were the only show in town the service was terrible with no incentive to improve service or cost.

Re: Consolidation doesn't always save money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44387651)

I have a similar experience at a large government agency that is consulidating data centers. The cost savings are definitely not there.

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