June 17, 2013
Good news. Three years into their five-year data center consolidation project the federal government just found out they had 3,000 more data centers than they originally thought. Boy, you just can’t slide anything past these guys. As a side note, this should make all of you worried about the NSA tracking your phone calls feel better, since if it takes 3 years to find 3,000 buildings, odds are they aren’t going to find out about your weekly communiqués to Aunt Marge–or even “Uncle” Bookie—any time soon. Obviously, this new discovery is going to have some impact on the project, but I think the first question we have to ask is just where have these data centers been hiding all this time?
If you subscribe to the theory of Occam’s Razor, that states that the simplest solution is often the best for a complex problem, we could postulate that these data centers were hiding in plain site. Makes sense. Data centers tend to be fairly non-descript and could easily be overlooked in the office park or clusters of other federal buildings where they tend to hang out. You would think that someone would have notified the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that they suspected there might be a data center near them, but I don’t think the Feds had set up any kind of anonymous tip line or posted a reward. Thus, when confronted with their civic duty to report these miscreants, the average, well compensated, employee-for-life civil servant just chose to look the other way.
Perhaps they used aliases. I don’t think that we can say what lengths a data center on the run will use to avoid detection, so we can’t rule this tactic out. When you think about it, what strategy could be more simple and ingenious? I’m a data center, but I arrange to be listed in some vast federal database as a warehouse, motor pool or even a tactical nuclear facility. Between that and keeping my head down to avoid calling attention to myself, I could hide in the shadows for years. Smaller facilities could even use clandestine covers like “Mens” or “Ladies” room. I mean who is going to go looking for a data center there? I think the facilities that chose this route are examples of what our intelligence services refer to as “deep cover”.
They certainly did not choose to come forward voluntarily. I think this is understandable. Who among us would offer ourselves up for consolidation without some degree of coercion? Their physical size, and our country’s current interrogation policy, eliminated the opportunity to waterboard them so, faced with the prospect of elimination by drone they opted for self-preservation. Isn’t this really a classic American dilemma? Does the individual—in this case a 10,000 square foot, 1MW facility—subordinate himself to the collective by being enjoined with other sites into a monster facility in Utah? In a straightforward choice between a constitutional republic and socialism, these brave facilities chose the patriotic option. God bless, America, and pardon me for a second while I wipe the tears off my keyboard.
Ordinarily, the fate of these newly discovered 3,000 data centers would appear to be inevitable—Vaya Con Dios, boys. But their emergence on the scene has caused the savvy guys and gals at the OMB to reexamine the whole purpose of the project that was to save $3 billion by consolidating 800 of 2094 government data centers. The new focus of this data center transformation effort is to close 40% of our “non-core” facilities (definition pending) to save a currently undetermined sum of money. While I applaud the government’s continued efforts to make lemonade out of lemons, I think this recalibration of our data center consolidation strategy offers new hope for those remaining locations that so far have avoided detection. Not only can they breath a little easier, but let me be the first to say that if these dedicated computing sites haven’t earned amnesty, who has?