Houston, We Have a ProblemDoes it ever seem like some people’s whole purpose in life is to serve as a warning to the rest of us? You know what I’m talking about. The guy who buys a house just before the bottom falls out of the market, arrives in some exotic locale for his dream vacation just in time for the government to be overthrown by some military junta, or marries the girl of his dreams before she tells him she used to be a man. Maybe it’s just nature’s way of keeping things in balance. For every guy we know that must have been born “under a lucky star”, there has to be someone who serves as a karmic “crap magnet”. Don’t we all know someone like this? We all feel sorry for them, but we try not to stand to close them either. Up until now I’d always believed that these poor unfortunate souls were isolated in their ability wreak havoc on their surrounding environment. Kind of like bulls who carry their own china shops around with them. However, after reading about the State of Washington’s efforts to build a new data center for their Department of Information Services, I think they might be organizing.

The whole project started innocently enough. In order to save money, the state decided to consolidate a number of its data centers into a single facility. So with these good intentions in mind, their technology aficionados sat down to layout the requirements for their new home. Now we all know just how difficult capacity planning can be, and this project is obviously no exception to that rule. Not wanting to leave anyone out or constrain their ability to grow, this grouping of experts finally delivered a plan that has resulted in 300,000 square foot facility at a cost to the state of $255 million. Naturally, the state’s taxpayers are thrilled. “But wait”, as they say on those late night infomercials, “there’s more”.

Proving that some gifts just keep on giving, the facility includes a 50,000 square foot data center. Unfortunately, it has now been determined that this is about 10 times what was actually required. Certainly, we can all understand that some poor guy probably added an extra “0” to a purchase order, and things just escalated from there. One day you’re just some anonymous mid-level bureaucrat, and the next, you’re the guy responsible for a data center that could double as an aircraft hangar. Apparently no one noticed that they were ordering a little bit more raised floor tile than expected, or they just didn’t want to embarrass anyone by calling it to someone’s attention thereby proving that yes, it is possible to be too nice.

Realizing the over estimate of their capacity requirements was slightly larger than a rounding error, the state’s brain trust then decided to lease the vacant space. Due to a wealth of competition they found no takers and the idea was quickly shelved. Officials are now denying rumors that it is now available to host weddings and bar mitzvahs.

Certainly everyone has a right to make a mistake, but I think the good citizens of Washington would agree that these guys are abusing the privilege. The depth of this cautionary tale should not be lost on anyone who is planning a next data center. Mistakes of this magnitude can happen to anyone—even you. Just remember, while we will feel sorry for you, we won’t be standing next to your either.

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