A tale of two U.S. government data center projects

One project, for NOAA, came in on time; the other, for the Air Force, didn't

By , Computerworld |  Data Center, NOAA, US Air Force

This is a story of two federal government data center projects: One, undertaken by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), met its schedule and budget. The other, a U.S. Air Force initiative, went over budget and was late.

How did this happen? What was different about the projects and the approaches that led to different outcomes?

The NOAA project

The NOAA project was a $27.6 million renovation of an approximately five-year-old office and laboratory building in an office park in Fairmount, W.Va. The building was newly leased by the government. The goal of the renovation was to upgrade the capabilities of the computer systems that support NOAA research and to consolidate several research data centers. The agency picked West Virginia because it was looking for locations in a 120-mile radius away from an existing data center.

The entire facility is 54,000 square feet, with 16,000 square feet of raised floor space.

The data center, which opens next month, will house a 29,000-core Intel Xeon supercomputer built by SGI that's capable of reaching speeds of up to 383 teraflops.

The facility wasn't originally intended to house a data center, but NOAA estimates that building a new data center from scratch would have cost approximately double the amount budgeted for the project.

The Air Force project

The Air Force Research Laboratory's Defense Supercomputing Center needed to upgrade mechanical and electrical systems in a 40-year-old data center to accommodate a new supercomputer. Among other things, this nearly 83,000-square-foot building needed an increase in its electric load capacity from 3.3 megawatts to 8MW. It also needed new water-cooled chillers capable of handling a Cray supercomputer with 30, 45kW racks. It has 26,600 square feet of raised floor space.

The project was expected to be completed in June 2010 at a cost of $5.1 million. It wasn't finished until this month, 14 months late, and it was about $1 million over budget.

What went wrong?

The Air Force project's problems, outlined by the project managers during a presentation last week at the Afcom data center conference here, were wide-ranging -- so much so that one person in the audience asked if the project was cursed.

Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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