Data center expansion or consolidation

The SSA just awarded a $192 million contract for a new data center.

Hey wait! I thought the federal government was consolidating data centers, not building new ones. But then I saw this headline during a Google search: Feds award $192M contract for Social Security Administration (SSA) data center in Urbana, Md.

The article, filed by the Associated Press, is here, on the Washington Post online site. There are few details in the article. The feds have awarded a $191.6 million contract to Hensel Phelps Construction Co., of Chantilly, Va. Hensel Phelps is a big, national general contractor headquartered in Greeley, Colo., with offices around the country.

The new data center will be in Urbana, Md., a suburb in Frederick County Md., that’s near the I-270 tech corridor and about 50 miles northwest of Washington, D.C. The data center will be 300,000 square feet and is expected to be completed in 2015. The story also reports that about 250 people will work at the data center.

Turns out the new data center is no surprise. The new data center – the SSA National Support Center – has been planned for some time. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the U.S. Social Services Administration received a $500 million appropriation for a a new center to replace the existing National Computer Center (NCC) in Woodlawn, Md.

Apparently, the NCC has been in operation for more than 30 years, and two independent studies found that the building’s infrastructure – the electrical, plumbing, HVAC, etc. – is aging and must be replaced.

The new data center will be designed to accommodate consolidation and virtualization efforts, as well as energy-energy efficient equipment layouts and designs. There’s also the goal to attain LEED Gold Certification.

Virtualization will play a key role: the SSA’s goal, as part of the fed’s data center consolidation effort, is to reduce the 2009 baseline of approximately 1300 physical servers and maintain the hardware footprint to less than 1000 physical servers in each of its two data centers (there’s another one, called the Second Support Center (SSC), which opened in 2009 in North Carolina). The SSA is taking the opportunity to consolidate as it builds a new data center and then moves into that data center.

Consolidation efforts will be on-going. Already, there’s savings. By creating about 240 virtual servers (and reducing the number of physical servers by the same amount) in fiscal year 2001, the SSA says it saved an estimated $2 million on hardware. The SSA says it expects operating and energy costs to go down accordingly.

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