FedCloud and the “evil data centers”

Today, I’ve been reading and considering FedCloud Targets $20B in Evil Data Centers. US CIO Vivek Kundra says “We’re building data centers the size of city blocks and spending hundreds of millions of dollars … We cannot continue on this trajectory.” So, just how big is too big for a data center?

It seems like everywhere in the news lately we read about the latest mega data centers, some as big as 800,000 square feet. So just what are the ups and downs to these enormous facilities?

Obviously, economies of scale and consistency apply to these mega facilities. Uniform systems reduce the cost of operation and maintenance, as well as making excellent monitoring and management possible. There’s also a reduction in cost from not having to duplicate job functions that would be required for multiple facilities.

On the down side, first, there is putting all the eggs in one basket. Mega data centers are not immune to catastrophic failures from either internal or external events (for example, the electrical explosion at one of The Planet’s data centers some time back). One catastrophic problem can take down an awful lot of service in one shot.

Second, mega facilities don’t lend themselves to many green techniques. In a vast open space, attempting enough fine air flow control to implement free air cooling is problematic. Also, the long distances between power and loads increases electrical loses, especially in DC power systems.

The final issues is political. What happens with a mega facility when the local political environment becomes unfriendly to the services being run from it? Reference the recent move of Microsoft’s Azure from Washington state due to unfavorable tax changes.

So what is the answer? For me, it’s a balance between economies of scale, flexibility to adapt, ability to implement green data center techniques, and redundancy for disaster insurance.

Vern, SwiftWater Telecom
Data center, web hosting, Internet engineering”


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