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Feds Discover 1,000 More Government Data Centers 246

1sockchuck writes "The US government has 2,094 data centers, nearly 1,000 more than previous estimates, according to an updated inventory by federal agencies. The finding underscores the scope of the challenge facing the Obama administration as it seeks to streamline the government's IT infrastructure in a massive data center consolidation."
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Feds Discover 1,000 More Government Data Centers

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  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @10:55AM (#33882658)

    Any Presidential administration that comes into the federal government promising to combat bureaucracy and duplication is either lying (most likely) or is truly epically deluded. No agency in the federal government is going to let some johnny-come-lately President who's going to be gone in 4-8 years come in and fundamentally change the way they've worked for 60 years or more. Oh sure, they'll TELL him they'll do it. They kiss the ass of their new director (aka his political toadie appointee, also to be gone in 4-8 years). But the most they'll *actually* do is stall, make token gestures, lie, and basically find other ways to run out the clock until the next administration comes in (with a whole new set bullshit streamlining promises). There are long-term professionals in these agencies who've been playing out that scenario since the Carter administration (maybe even some old Nixon/Ford guys).

    Bill Clinton said it best (and I'm paraphrasing here) "The most shocking thing I discovered about the Presidency is that people don't do what you say."

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jonescb ( 1888008 )

      Bill Clinton said it best (and I'm paraphrasing here) "The most shocking thing I discovered about the Presidency is that people don't do what you say."

      Isn't that how it's supposed to work? If everybody had to do as he said, we'd call the position Dictator instead of President. The president has very limited power, which is a good thing.

      • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @11:19AM (#33882934)
        Yes, but most people assume the President has a lot more power than they actually do. You come in as President, you appoint a new director of agency X, you tell him to do such-and-such at that agency, he says okay, and then he goes off and doesn't do it. Your own cabinet will often lie to you, deceive you, outright ignore you, stall you, etc. And everyone is just waiting around for the day when you'll be gone (which they know will be, at most, 8 years from now). Any given federal employee is way more worried about covering their ass and sticking around for the long-term than with any directive you might issue. No one gives a shit about your campaign promises or legacy except you and maybe a few members of your cabinet. It's like being the captain of a boat on the very of mutiny--for 4-8 years.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by BobMcD ( 601576 )

          So fire them. Hire someone that will do as you say. CEO's do it in the real world every single day. And if there are laws in your way, get those changed first. Failing that, line-item-veto any spending for their salaries and wait for them to quit. Failing even that, use your executive ability to set their schedules to nil, or require them to report to Alaska, etc.

          It really isn't that hard.

          People made this same argument towards Ron Paul's campaign promises, and they failed to see the same simplicity of

          • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @11:57AM (#33883428)
            Most of the professional level federal employees are protected by laws and union contracts (only the director is an at-will employee that the President can hand his walking papers whenever he feels like it). That means you would have to go through Congress, and maybe even the courts, for the changes needed to just start firing people (or zeroing out their budgets). And good luck with that.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by BobMcD ( 601576 )

              Or you just pay out the contract...

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by michael_cain ( 66650 )
              Well, in most agencies there are a number of appointive posts at the top, not just the very head. Eg, various assistant secretaries and under secretaries are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate, and serve at the pleasure of the President. Then there is the hybrid case of appointive positions that have fixed terms (eg, the members of the FCC).

              It's also worth pointing out that the federal civil service, which many regard as a serious problem because it makes it hard to fire people witho
          • by orgelspieler ( 865795 ) <( (ta) (eifl0w)> on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @01:43PM (#33884724) Journal
            Line item veto? The president doesn't have that authority. Clinton had it for a little while, but Rudy Giuliani took it all the way to the Supreme Court to have it declared unconstitutional.
          • So fire them. Hire someone that will do as you say.

            Not always possible. Lots of federal employees are unionized. Lots more of them don't actually report to the president, even indirectly. Even those that do are much harder to hire/fire than you suppose and most really important jobs actually require Congressional approval. We limit the President's power for very good reasons and while this has some undesirable side effects, I'm not about to vote to give anyone unlimited power over staffing in the federal government.

            CEO's do it in the real world every single day.

            The president isn't a CEO and the two

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by PPH ( 736903 )

        Yes. But onne would expect that the career bureaucrats would take some pride in doing the best job that they can. The whole "We've been doing it this way for decades and when you're gone in 4 years, we'll still will be" is pure bullshit. We need some way to motivate them to pursue continuous process improvement. Then, the proper function of the administration is to watch over the operations and make policy decisions. Not nit-pick the data center architecture. On the other hand, when the administration calls

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Rich0 ( 548339 )

          Uh, pride in a job well done won't get them anywhere. Trust me - pride in quality is no better in the federal government than in any major corporation. In the company I work for we'd still have data centers in every closet in every building and armies of shadow IT if business leaders didn't know that they'd be shown the door if they didn't comply with corporate directives.

          Who wants to depend on some external server group to maintain their servers, when instead they could just have their own group doing th

      • That's how it's supposed to work overall. That's not how it's supposed to work within the Executive Branch, of which the President is the head officer. When your boss gives you a legal order, you're supposed to obey it.

      • *Everybody* isn't supposed to do what he says, then he'd be a dictator. Everyone who works for the executive branch of the government is supposed to to follow his work related policies, just as you are expected to follow the policies of the president of your company. He's the head of the executive branch, he has a reasonable expectation that his employees will do what he tells them too. They don't. At the levels below the political appointees they weasel around doing the minimum possible to appease whoev

      • by bberens ( 965711 )
        No, imho the POTUS is the CEO of the Executive branch. His orders should be followed in the same way as if the CEO of your current employer walked over to your office and told you to do something. Sure, sometimes things don't work out, are technically impossible, etc. But generally you'd better at least begrudgingly attempt to do what he wants. Otherwise what the heck is the point of electing him?
    • by Pojut ( 1027544 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @11:10AM (#33882826) Homepage

      In the case of Obama, I think he truly believed that he would be able to change things once he was in a position of "real" power. Except when he got elected, he found out that the president isn't a position of "real" power after're hands are tied when it comes to MANY things.

      I don't think his promises have been broken, so much as had reality injected in them.

      • by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @11:25AM (#33882996)

        And, to be honest, its one reason I didn't vote for him. As soon as I understood that he had no idea how the government actually works, I knew the only thing that was going to happen was that he was going to simply add to the government. Not because he's some sort of big government liberal, but because adding to the government is all that the bureaucracy lets you do without specialized knowledge of how the bureaucracy works.

        The Tea Party people really have no chance either. Their only value in my mind is that they will gridlock the addition of more crap to the government. I have more sympathy with their aims, but I know full well that outsiders have no chance at meaningful change unless it is accomplished via tearing down the whole edifice.

        The real challenge is not throwing the bums out or creating "Change", its finding knowledgeable insiders who know how to get things done in the bureaucracy. People who can ease out the holdouts from their fiefdoms, who can soothe the Civil Service unions, and who can gain the trust of multiple administrations so that they have the ability to actually do something worth doing. I almost think that as soon as the President wins an election, he or she needs to go and campaign at every federal office building and get those people on his side.

        • Of course they have no meaningful chance, not with folks like you voting for gridlock. I mean seriously, if people would vote for the candidate that was sincerely interested in good policy and willing to make compromises to get it, there would be change. What President Obama failed to appreciate is all the numb nuts out there that are voting specifically for the candidate that's going to cause the most damage to the federal government.

          Which is really the only reason why the tea party movement is even in
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by BobMcD ( 601576 )

          I should have saved my earlier post for you, because perhaps you'll be able to explain it to me...

          Let's take a concrete example or three. I'll propose some executive solutions to the problems, and you tell me why it won't work:

          1) End the wars. President uses Commander-in-Chief authority to redeploy every single unit, or just the desired units, to the United States, effective immediately. Anyone not obeying the order will be brought up for court martial. Failing that, simply veto any spending bills until

          • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @12:23PM (#33883688)
            The main reason most of those things cannot be done is because voters don't want them to be done.

            Voters do not want a sudden, humiliating withdrawl from Afghanistan that would be an admission of defeat. (Others would argue saving face isn't worth sacrificing lives, but I digress...)

            Voters do not want to balance the budget. What they want is to pay no taxes when young, and receive full benefits when old. And who they vote for is whoever promises to do that.

            It's just human nature. Almost every person thinks THEY are the one doing more than their fair share, and what they want is for everybody else to start bucking up and being more like them. Just like a big marriage among 300,000,000 people.

          • by iluvcapra ( 782887 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @01:05PM (#33884200)

            End the wars. President uses Commander-in-Chief authority to redeploy every single unit, or just the desired units, to the United States, effective immediately. Anyone not obeying the order will be brought up for court martial. Failing that, simply veto any spending bills until they run out of money

            As we've seen with Obama's attempt to reduce commitments in Afghanistan, against the will of the generals, it's practically impossible for a president to reduce troop deployments without the support of the generals, particularly as long as the party in opposition supports an open-ended commitment. The generals simply leak the content of their meetings to the war party, and leak negative stories about the policy decisions to the press, and work to eliminate and marginalize people who offer solutions that reduce commitments beneath what the generals think "will accomplish the mission." It would be easy for Obama to end the war at the cost of his presidency, of course, but why bother when your replacement will be an ultra-hawk Republican who will simply re-escalate? That's really the issue, there's a lot of competition for people to prove themselves the most belligerent, because there really isn't much of a consensus for ending the war among conservatives or liberals.

            2) End "Department of X". Dismiss and/or reassign every appointee, refuse to nominate any new candidates. Failing that, set their home office in ANWAR and refuse to reimburse any mileage, due to the economy, of course.

            All cabinet-level departments are created by acts of congress; a president cannot abrogate an act of congress. A failure to appoint a head will cause the civil-service interim appointee to run the department. Congress will attempt the fund the department through omnibus legislation.

            3) Eliminate the Deficit. Veto, veto, veto. Line-item-veto, even. Signing statements stating that funding starts out at zero dollars this year and increases to the figures on the bill one year after the bill is no longer valid, or one year after the Union no longer exists, which ever comes last. Failing that, refuse to even read any more bills until you get what you want on your desk.

            The President of the US has no line-item veto, because it's unconstitutional. The president has no right to dictate how the US spends its money, this is the responsibility of the House of Representatives. There is no evidence that people really want to eliminate the deficit. The deficit is a fundamentally popular institution and people would never vote someone out of office for increasing it. And deficit reformers, instead of actually trying to win the argument on the merits and win elections, propose ever more dictatorial powers for their great white hope, that one man who will, Cincinnatus-like, ride to the rescue of America, use untrammeled king-like authority to set the nation straight, and then disappear. The requirement that a president either affirm or veto bills in full is a fundamental check on executive power.

            You call for dictatorship, if only to deal with the immediate crisis, but that's how it always starts... Congress is the institution in our system that prevents dictatorship. If you take powers away from congress and hand them to the president, you break the system.

            The problem is that people don't actually vote for senators and representatives they respect any more, people who can -- they just vote for the person who has the highest propensity for giving them what they ask for.

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by budgenator ( 254554 )

              "It would be easy for Obama to end the war at the cost of his presidency, "
              What presidency, He's treated like a lame-duck president before the mid-term elections of his first term. Actually calling him a lame duck is being generous, He's more like a turtle on a post,
              You know he didn't get up there by himself,
              he doesn't belong up there,
              he doesn't know what to do while he's up there,
              he's elevated beyond his ability to function, and you just wonder what kind of dumb asses put him up there to begin wit

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by gnieboer ( 1272482 )

            OK, I'll give you some straight answers as to why that's not going to happen, even if you were president tomorrow:

            1- End the Wars. Actually, the wars are ending. But let's say tomorrow is your first day in office. Your order is "Redeploy all the units". The CJCS says "Yes, sir". First they need some time to come up with a plan on how to do what you want. So MINIMUM 60 days. Ever tried to get a family of five in the car for a 5-day road trip?? How many hours did that take? OK, now multiply that by 5

      • by Minwee ( 522556 )

        Perhaps he should have done his homework [] so that he might have more realistic expectations [].

        He might also be able to use simple civil service phrases like "Unfortunately, although the answer was indeed clear, simple, and straightforward, there is some difficulty in justifiably assigning to it the fourth of the epithets you applied to the statement, inasmuch as the precise correlation between the information you communicated and the facts, insofar as they can be determined and demonstrated, is such as to cau

    • stall, make token gestures, lie, and basically find other ways to run out the clock until the next administration comes in...

      Or as Sir Humphrey Appleby said:
      "Indeed it is, beyond question, at the appropriate juncture, in due course, in the fullness of time."

    • by gumbi west ( 610122 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @11:23AM (#33882972) Journal

      The President can do a lot, he just has to sick someone else on the topic like a bull dog. He also has to be really picky about his battles.

      I can think of many examples from situations I know of.


      • under Bush, the administration did manage to decrease the number of payroll offices substantially and keep (mainly) the the good ones, and decreased the travel authorization/reimbursement IT systems to the less crappy ones (btw private industry guys, is there such a thing as a good travel authorization/reimbursement system?).
      • Clinton decreased the number of senior executives (people making about $140,000 in DC) substantially while increasing the number of minority senior executives.
      • Clinton, with Gore's help, increased the number of contractors in the civilian services. He did this not by forcing contracting on the government agencies, but by making a process and forcing them to look at some of their employees every year.
      • Bush, with Rumsfeld's help, increased the number of contractors in the military. Not sure how this worked, it might have all been from the top.

      You have to realize, the US government is too large to control from DC. It works best when there is central minimum requirements that vary with the task at hand and how you meet them is left up to some local manager.

      • Precisely, there's a lot of things which genuinely have bipartisan support, and those are the things you focus on first.

        That's not to say that you ignore the other ones, we're going to be permanently in debt unless we allow the Bush tax cuts to expire for the high earners, and we're going to have to cut government spending on defense to fund education and jobs programs. We're going to have to force companies that send jobs overseas to book profits before they book deductions like ones that are located an
    • Ever seen "Yes, Minister"? Bureaucracy outlives the elected politicians, and usually has more entrenched power. If you want to make a real change to government you destroy bureaux first.
    • by jimicus ( 737525 )

      Oh, you've seen Yes Minister?

    • Bill Clinton said it best (and I'm paraphrasing here) "The most shocking thing I discovered about the Presidency is that people don't do what you say."

      Which is why it's a good idea to elect a married man. He should be used to it. ;)

  • Hmmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by c0mpliant ( 1516433 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @11:01AM (#33882704)
    Why do I get the image of an Indiana Jones style character pulling back overgrown bushes and thorns to reveal the long Lost Temple of Data Storage...

    Possibly being chased by some legacy system throwing strange errors at him while he trying to escape a rolling ball of ethernet cables
  • Big company (Score:4, Insightful)

    by captaindomon ( 870655 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @11:02AM (#33882708)
    Eh, if you've worked in a multi-billion dollar F100 company this isn't surprising at all. Any random department can buy a couple of servers and set up their own "data center", and when you have 100,000 employees, it's hard to keep track of. Now imagine you are a multi-trillion dollar company, which is basically what the federal government is, with three million employees. Things get complicated.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by nedlohs ( 1335013 )

      Your "couple of servers" probably doesn't meet the criteria for counting in this case:

      The process defined a data center as any room larger than 500 square feet dedicated to data processing that meets the one of the four tier classifications defined by The Uptime Institute.

      Now you could put a couple of servers in a 500 square feet room, but that seems pretty unlikely.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mtmra70 ( 964928 )

        Your "couple of servers" probably doesn't meet the criteria for counting in this case:

        I work at a F100 company and we have two data centers which are larger than 500sq/ft and house at least 100 physical boxes and a couple SANs each, yet the company/IT doesn't count them as part of their normal data center strategy. If you asked global IT if we had data centers at our site, they would say "nope".

      • Re:Big company (Score:5, Insightful)

        by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @11:41AM (#33883196) Homepage
        You do realize that 500 sq. feet is just over a 22 foot square room. That's not that big at all. I've often seen small "data centers" of this size in government buildings. Granted, I live in Canada, but I imagine the US is the same. Each little organizational unit wants to manage all their own stuff to increase their importance, and make it look like they are doing something. So they all have their own little data center. It's all to play their little game. If you don't spend your whole budget, then they figure you don't need the money, so the following year they cut it. If you do spend it all, then you can claim that you are underfunded and possibly get your budget raised. There's always a mad rush at the end of the fiscal year to ensure that all the money is spent.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by guruevi ( 827432 )

          Off course, there's always the problem that when you use the centrally managed resources, they're practically worthless. I work in a similar environment and doing everything ourselves is ~10x cheaper and much more flexible. Even outsourcing it to a commercial entity would be cheaper. 1TB of data does not need to cost $10k/year, (paid) e-mail boxes should not be limited to 250MB and you really don't need 8 Exchange admins to manage 8 Exchange servers (maybe you do, I have only worked with Postfix). The downs

      • A 500SF room will hold a UPS, CRAC unit, PDU, and 16 racks, if there is no raised floor. If you add in a 12" raised floor, you are down to space for 12 racks. While more than a "couple servers," it is one logical planning block up from a 200SF room, and you will see government organizations justify it for something needing a rack or two of networking equipment plus two racks of servers thinking this is the only time they will ever get money for their pet project.

        What would be more telling is the space bre

    • but if it appears on our network without previous authorization all hell breaks loose. Whether from internal or external auditors to just the network people freaking out. SOX reporting pretty much insures anything for us that can store information, even in transition, is documented, accounted for, and has its approvals all in order.

      No, government is in a league of its own, there number of redundant programs and such is probably worthy of three to five years worth of investigation. They don't answer to an

    • Not on my network they don't. Nobody plugs anything into my network without IT involvement. And you may ask yourself "why" I would be such a BOFH. Because I need to know what VLAN to put the device in. No port is hot, unless I say it is hot. No device gets access unless I approve it and configure it to the right VLAN.

      There would be no rogue servers. Anyone caught putting in a rogue server would be reported up the proper chain. It isn't hard to keep track of anything, if you keep track of everything. If you

      • Unless someone working for you enables the port and configures it to the VLAN, without actually counting it as an additional server.

        The point GP was making is that if you are the only person to authorize port enablement and VLAN configuration, your network will be completely under your control. It is when you start authorising other people to start doing this stuff (which will have to happen in a large org (and no a one man IT is not an option)), things dont stay under your control.

      • Dealing somewhat with classified networks, I can say that a BOFH wouldn't have any clue what servers a given program might be using. You might have a single subnet provided for the room, but that is all. Security is compartmentalized, which means you get exactly the information you need to do your job and nothing else. Each program controls their internal and external links pretty much, and if they can figure out a way to physically get a new rack in the room, and can hook up a breaker and some SO cord i

      • by GenP ( 686381 )
        How do you detect a port that's been "repurposed" to be the head-end of a bunch of NATed machines?
    • Anywhere you have IT governance that delivers more policies than solutions, rogue IT fills the gap.

      In the case of the Federal government, I can imagine this getting out of hand. I wonder how many virtual machines are sitting there in the Amazon cloud quietly doing the government's business?

  • If only they had some sort of facility that could house devices that could hold lists of things they could do a better job of keeping track of these types of places. Alas, some day I won't just be a dreamer ...
  • "Oh, HERE they are! silly buggers, I though you ran away!"

    seriously though, stuff like this DOES happen. the UK Government just shut down what, hundreds of websites that they didn't even know they had been paying for?

    sprawl != organised.
    • by VJ42 ( 860241 ) *

      "Oh, HERE they are! silly buggers, I though you ran away!" seriously though, stuff like this DOES happen. the UK Government just shut down what, hundreds of websites that they didn't even know they had been paying for? sprawl != organised.

      Indeed, but at least our government was able to shut them down - if a tenth of what I read about the US government is true (admittedly unlikely since most comes from places like /.), the President would have had a political fight on his hands to do the same. Seriously, the more I read about the alternatives, the more I like the Westminster system. Sure it could do with some tweaks (mostly in the way we vote), but in practice it's one of the best ways to run a representative democracy such as the US or UK.

  • Whats a datacenter? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by vlm ( 69642 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @11:03AM (#33882732)

    Whats a datacenter?

    As a fedgov employee (US Army) in the early 90s I had two big green unisys btos machines each with three terminals running a database Admittedly no outside world connection except 110V AC but the terminal things did have at least a hundred feet of cable. For the purposes of this report, would by old office be defined as a "datacenter"?

    • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @11:07AM (#33882776)
      I see the same sort of confusion over the term "server room." At my institution, all sorts of weird things are "server rooms" -- everything from a dedicated room with rows of rackmounts, backup power, HVAC, etc. to a closet with a few switches and a NAS in it. How many server rooms do we have? Who knows? I would not be surprised if many of these "data centers" turned out to be nothing more than a single rack in a field office somewhere.
      • How big are your damn closets?

      • According to the article, linked memo, and linked data center tier definition, the meanest little closet holding a box with blinking lights is a "data center". The survey referenced does limit them to over 500 square feet but even that number can be kinda meaningless.

        At this moment, I'm sitting on the other side of the wall from a "data center" for a major TLA. It was once a monstrosity with dozens of Pyramids the size of refrigerators, racks of Windows-based servers for files and email, and a few dozen U

    • Why not try reading the article which contains the definition they used.

    • by Rennt ( 582550 )

      TFA: "The process defined a data center as any room larger than 500 square feet dedicated to data processing that meets the one of the four tier classifications defined by The Uptime Institute."

      A Tier-1 facility is a server room or closet with basic power and cooling. If you have any kind of redundancy or failover that kicks you up to Tier-2.

      So really, any lights-out environment over 500 feet qualifies.

  • by Dancindan84 ( 1056246 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @11:04AM (#33882740)
    ...literally _lost_. The servers respond to ping, work completely. I just can't figure out where in the country it is.
  • by Surt ( 22457 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @11:05AM (#33882752) Homepage Journal

    Why don't we provide a small number of locations, the destruction of any of which would significantly cripple our government. I can't imagine who would find such a consolidation helpful to their goals.

    • by cptdondo ( 59460 )

      Just because you have a lot of them, doesn't mean they're redundant or in any way coordinated.

      Most are probably just a local chief/commander/boss saying "we need XYZ, get us some computers".

      I can see some serious redundancy in DOD computers; basically you want each field unit to have some data center capability in case the grid goes down. They need to be able to run their own affairs at the very least.

      But entities like the VA and the Education folks? They don't really need redundancy to any great extent;

    • Not really, they could coordinate it so that there's a small number of them, perhaps 1 per region of the US. Say broken up into the same regions that the federal government uses for district courts. Most of the servers could reasonably be combined using virtual hosts, since most of them really don't need to be separated. Somethings like Social Security and the IRS have a reason to be separated, but most of them don't need to be.

      But, the point is that since you have them consolidated to a small number of
  • i did a 1 year contracting stint at a US Army Corps of Engineers office 10 years ago. the DC was less than 10 servers in a closet for 140 people. the local offices had more people and more servers. in a few cases the local IT people refused to go with the mandated domain plan and kept separate domains. word was that the managers couldn't make them do it either. this was back in the NT4 days. with Windows 2003 and 2008 it's a lot easier to consolidate the domains and data centers but in the end they will hav

  • I don't understand how you can "find" data centers? Can someone explain that to me.

    • It's kind of like in Civ... Obama sent out some explorers and a friendly tribe of Inupiats gave them a data center.
    • Have you ever seen IT infrastructure in an organization where departments can make independent purchasing decisions? It is very easy for a department to purchase some servers for themselves, put them in a closet, and suddenly you have a server room that nobody is aware of. I saw it all the time when I was an undergrad, and I see it all the time now as a grad student.

      It was not that these systems were "lost," but rather that they were not accounted for. I am not surprised -- various departments, subdep
      • Indeed. I used to be a security officer, and one time I was sent to unlock a server room for an audit that the tenant authorized. It turned out to be a closet with a couple servers in it, and right at the top of the closet was a big ole sprinkler head.

        Needless to say the auditor that I let into the closet was less than enthused by the situation.
    • by cptdondo ( 59460 )

      I've got a small home network. It has a handful of IP cameras, a few access points, some wifi gadgets, a couple of laptops, and 3 "regular" computers.

      As everything works, it's not unusual for me to lose track of some gadget after a year or two, or to notice a "new" gadget that's actually been there.

      Now imagine that you have a 10,000 of these sorts of setups, but each has 1,000 nodes. And each has an admin or a group of admins that do what they need to to make their management happy. And now move the admi

      • Which is why organizations have to have a much more formal setting. I remember interviewing for a job quite a while ago, where they had a twiki page, specifically too keep track of that stuff. It was a rather large campus, but there was enough going on, that it would be impossible to keep track of things were it not for the twiki page and fastidious updates whenever something was added or changed.
    • by teridon ( 139550 )

      It's easy -- you ask people you've never asked before: "Hey, do you have any data centers?". In other words, no one was keeping track before. Missions/projects setup data centers as-needed, but were not required to report them as a new "data center" to anyone.

      I don't think it's surprising to find that the estimate was wrong. I know that where I work, funding plays a huge part in the creation of "islands" of IT resources. Every project pays for their own resources, and no one wants to share. Until th

  • Your taxes at work (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hessian ( 467078 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @11:17AM (#33882904) Homepage Journal

    In a normal business, you serve a client.

    In government, the client is yourself, and you must "justify" that position with lots of public activity.

    That activity does not need to be effective, it only needs to look effective. By definition, there's less risk in ineffective activity.

    This is why government is often ineffective, and why both left and right wing parties want to streamline it.

    • by BobMcD ( 601576 )

      This is why government is often ineffective, and why both left and right wing parties want to streamline it.

      You had me up until that last part. Unless you mean "steamline" as in, give the contracts to their friends and campaign contributers instead of whoever has it now.

  • Really a good idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @11:23AM (#33882966)

    My impression is that in most cases, consolidation can reduce apparent IT costs, but produces a not just centralized computers but a centralized bureaucracy.

    And when you have a centralized bureaucracy, the individual agencies will be subject to data centers that act on their "requests" more slowly if at all. (Note that when you lose control over your data center, what used to be an order now becomes a request.)

    In general, it seems like centralizing things can help with some issues, but creates a boatload of other issues.

  • ...underneath the Carribbean Sea built amongst the lost City of Atlantis.

    Seriously, how could the US Government NOT know about or keep track of their own infrastructure and resources??? ;-)
  • Congratulations, you found the backup datacenters.
  • by G3ckoG33k ( 647276 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @11:26AM (#33883008)

    They should've asked the Chinese straight away. They would have known.

  • Sure makes it hard for terrorists to target key data centers if the government doesn't even know how many they have or where they are.

    Obama is just playing right into the hands of the terrorists...

  • by Lookin4Trouble ( 1112649 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @11:35AM (#33883116)
    Yes, OMB changed what they consider a "datacenter" - previous Datacall regarded anywhere that had 5 servers, a switch, and a router as a datacenter. Now they've lowered the bar to (3 Servers) -or- (1 server + 1 switch) -or- (1 switch + 1 router) -or- (1 server + 1 router). Frankly, I'm surprised the number only roughly doubled, I would've thought there were a LOT more sites with a server, switch, router setup...
  • Remember that their definition of "data center" is more than a little self-serving, it can include any re-purposed office closet or "server room" in any of the tens of thousands of government offices in the thousands of government buildings.

  • The requirement for "data center" is 500 sq. feet. So all they need to do is cut them into smaller blocks (eg, shipping containers, or just moving the walls), and suddenly, although it's now more "data centers" each one won't qualify, and so will reduce the count.

    Or, we change the usage of the rooms -- that stack of cases of paper in the corner? That room's no longer 'devoted to data processing', and therefore, not a 'data center'. We already store spare parts in our 'not a data center' (also, my boss's

  • by AMuse ( 121806 ) <> on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @11:59AM (#33883448) Homepage

    Before everyone gets all spun up on government waste, inefficiency, etc - I'd like to point out that numbers like these are never accurate. (For the record, I work for the feds, in the IT field).

    The problem with "The feds have X datacenters" as a metric is that various audits occur at different times and by different auditors. These auditors almost always have differing definitions for what a datacenter actually is.

    In one audit, a group can come through and define "Datacenter" as a big room where servers are co-located and services run on behalf of others. They'll find 2 at my center. Then a year later, a different group comes in and defines "Datacenter" as anywhere that more than 5 computers are running and left on all night. They'll find 200 at my center. Yes, this actually happened! The auditors came through dozens of science labs, found project servers sitting in the labs, and labeled each lab a datacenter.

    Now here is the trick to why the statistics are complete mush. A normal IT guy would walk through the lab and say "Hey, that server should be in a datacenter!" -- but the auditors make the reverse conclusion. "Hey, this lab is a datacenter".

    Yes, there is waste in the federal sphere and we absolutely need to take action to be more efficient at all levels. However, this article is basically pushing a number that came from someones' imagination, and pretending it's meaningful.

  • There's a real problem with this analysis, esp. when you start defining what I'd call server rooms, things at 500'sq, as datacenters. We've got two large rooms, one probably bordering on that 500 ft, and no, you *cannot* "consolidate" that into a large one, for a number of reasons... like purpose and usage. If you're doing ordinary services, yeah (assuming you can trust them to keep them working, as opposed to the Department-wide login that just went down two days in a row - test boxes? h/a failover fallback? Huh?), but for special purposes - high performance computing, doing research, or some things I'm sure the military uses - there's no way to consolidate. You'd get long lines waiting for time on the systems, when the users are doing something so intensive that on small clusters they take *days* to run.

    You just can't lump it all with dumb, large boxes.


    ObDisclaimer: I work for a federal contractor, on site.

Competence, like truth, beauty, and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder. -- Dr. Laurence J. Peter