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Government Data Center Consolidation: NASA Has Space For Your Opinion

By: Kaylie Gyarmathy on September 2, 2014

Even the government has to scale back eventually.

That's the word from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which recently issued a “request for information” from the public asking for advice on how it should proceed with data center consolidation. While it's nice to know that federal organizations (occasionally) check with citizens before spending public funds, the request raises an important question: who the real stakeholders in your data center?

One of the “Fortune 20”

That's how the state of Pennsylvania describes itself according to a recent Computerworld article, owing to its veritable fortune of IT infrastructure, which includes 53000 square feet of data center space, 6000 servers, and over 2500 terabytes worth of storage. And just like any Fortune-level company, the state went looking for help when planning documents described its data center environment as “decentralized and lacking standard processes.”

Pennsylvania settled on a seven-year, $861 million dollar deal to consolidate seven existing data centers and leave just two in their place, along with creating a cloud-centric, on-demand compute environment. It's notable, however, that state government officials didn't ask for public opinion, instead relying on large IT contractor proposals to determine the best course of action. Public funds fill the role of ultimate stakeholder here – which the state has an absolute mandate to manage properly – but is cost-effectiveness the best indicator of IT infrastructure performance, or are there other considerations?

Is NASA Far Fetched?

Considering NASA's mandate – exploration of the universe through a relentless search new data – it's not really surprising that they've gone looking for public opinion. As noted by a recent ZDnet article, the Data Efficiency and Containerization request from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) is asking for public vendor input on short-term high ROI solutions, stand alone containerized data center options, and long-term modular alternatives.

Author David Chernicoff argues these options cover the typical choices of companies looking to modernize the data center: ROI in the short term, stable mid-range solutions, and the lure of modular. What's more, NASA gets specific: they want life-cycle evaluations, not just starting points.

Bottom line? NASA is soliciting bids without offering a contract, hoping to bring out the best in vendors and other interested parties and then, if necessary, adapt the ideas or in-source the build process. This “NASA approach” offers a lesson for the businesses looking for data center consolidation or colocation: ask, and you shall receive.

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