Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Data Center Consolidation is Feasible

According to Vivek Kundra, the US CIO, there were 2,094 Federal Data Centers. DoD operated 772 data centers. In each case, a “data center” was defined primarily as any room that is greater than 500 square feet and devoted to data processing.

The 500 square definitions do not hold up any more as the technologies are shrinking. It is possible to fit into 20x8 ft. shipping containers with the formidable capacity of up to 29.5 petabytes of storage and up to 46,080 CPU cores of processing power.

The economies of scale of data centers of 300,000 to 500,000 sq. ft. show a dramatic lowering of costs of information processing, huge decreases in operating expenses, reductions in staff, while also increasing the reliability and latency of what would then become a “server farm.” Examples of the construction of such huge data centers can be seen from firms such as Apple:

Apple data center in Maiden, North Carolina

Facebook data center in North Carolina

 There are many new firms that build and equip data centers. These are investment ventures. They build highly efficient large facilities and then lease them either as totally dedicated facilities for a particular organizations, or as “cages” available for partial occupancy. In the case of companies, such as Apple or Facebook, the computer configuration is standardized to meet the company’s proprietary system architecture. Partial occupancy pages offer greater flexibility to a customer to install specific software.

As an illustration of only a small sample of firms, the data center venture firm of Sabey is currently building a 350,000 sq. ft. data center for Dell. * The firm of CoreSite offers several locations with finished “wholesale” data center space for users who seek turnkey space that can be deployed quickly. ** The Equinix operates 22 data centers in the USA, 7 in Europe and 5 in Asia. Some of the large Equinix data centers are larger than 200,000. *** Rackspace operates 9 data centers, which includes managed hosting. **** The firm of Interxion operates 28 sites in Europe. *****

US Government and particularly DoD data centers have been constructed over the past thirty years. The do not reflect the economies of scale that have become available primarily on account of ample optic transmission capacity. Meanwhile the costs of hardware have shrunk, while the cost of electricity and operating manpower has been steadily rising to meet an exponential growth in demand for services.

The existing data centers have their origins in separate contracts, which dictated how computing facilities would have to be organized. It is clear that the currently proliferation of data centers cannot support the increasing demands for security and for reliability. With capital costs for the construction of economically viable data centers now approaching $500 million, it is unlikely that the needed capital could be available with the looming budget cuts in DoD.

The current FY10 O&M (operating and maintenance costs) of I.T. are $25.1 billion. This makes the leasing of DoD-dedicated data centers to be constructed by any one of many commercial firms affordable.

The total DoD user population is about eight million. Its workload would be only a fraction of the estimated high frequency users of firms such as Facebook that process transactions for over 600 million customers in less than 200 milliseconds. Even with provisions for redundancy, the consolidation of computing services into half a dozen Facebook-like data centers is an option.

* http://www.sabey.com/real_estate/data_centers_main.html