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Data center consolidation yields savings, Tier-rating upgrade

Following a data center consolidation, the state of Oregon's facility is upgraded to Tier-3 statues and saves millions.

ORLANDO -- A data center consolidation project by the state of Oregon reduces the number of divisions from 12 to one. The $20.6 million consolidation project is estimated to save the state $5 million to $10 million every year while improving the quality of the data center to a Tier-3 facility on the Uptime Institute's tier system.

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The idea for the data center consolidation started in 2001 when the state was in tough economic times and looking for any way to save a buck. The $20.6 million price tag was difficult to swallow, but the state department of administrative services decided to take on the project with the blessing of the governor.

The chance to upgrade Oregon's IT infrastructure to a modern, more secure data center facility was exciting, but had its roadblocks. Some were skeptical that the project would save the state money -- so the political wrangling began.

"One of the things we got drilled on early in the project was how can a data center be more secure when you have all your eggs in one basket," said project manager Brian Oylear. "But the state of Oregon decided it was more secure to have it all in one facility. They felt it was more efficient and easier to manage security risks if it was brought under one roof."

In the 12 scattered divisions, the public could get within one door of the hot floor, and with some mild manipulation of building security, slip into the data center, Oylear said. With the new facility, there are two sets of security doors for the only entry into the data center. There is also an exit-only egress that goes into another part of the facility.

The data center is working further to restrict access to the hot floor, making it available only to the operations team members. Even systems administrators who want to get in there would have to endure a rigorous approval process.

"I wish I could take you all there to show you how much of a Tier-0 facility we had," Oylear told attendees during a presentation at last week's Afcom conference in Orlando. "It was quite a sight to see when you walked in there. System admins sitting there with their lunches on top of disk storage. It's quite a difference when we end up at the end of the day with a tightly managed floor system."

Once the contractor, J.E. Dunn Construction, and the architect, Yost Grube Hall Architecture, got the go-ahead in September 2004, they were off. They broke ground the next month and the facility was finished less than a year after that. They used a design-build approach, allowing the contractor to start building the data center while the architect was still designing later stages of the project.

"We were making design decisions throughout the process, often in the meetings and on site," said Miles Woofter, the project architect from Yost Grube Hall. "That takes, I think, a high degree of confidence on both sides of the team."

The state also brought in the Uptime Institute, a consulting firm that sets tier levels depending on how reliable a data center is. A Tier-3 facility has redundant power and cooling supplies and allows for data center maintenance without affecting operations. Tier-3 facilities are only outdone by Tier-4 data centers, which are basically immune to any downtime problems.

The consolidation included reducing the raised floor from about 25,000 sq. ft. to 15,000 sq. ft. Before the consolidation, raised floor space was being used for storage, desk space and other functions that didn't require a hot floor, Oylear said. The consolidation also let the state to cut staff from almost 300 full-time employees to about 100, a good thing for the state budget, but controversial nonetheless.

The new 45,000-sq. ft. facility was completed a year ago, and the state has moved about 75% of its 1,200 servers to the new location.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Mark Fontecchio, News Writer

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