State tries to lease out oversize data center
The state's new Consolidated Technology Services (CTS) agency is moving ahead with a plan to lease out excess capacity in the significantly overbuilt State Data Center it manages, director Rob St. John said last week.
OLYMPIA — The state's new Consolidated Technology Services (CTS) agency is moving ahead with a plan to lease out excess capacity in the significantly overbuilt State Data Center it manages, director Rob St. John said last week.
Of four data halls built, only two were "built out" or outfitted for a tenant — making them nearly ready for use with minimal additional upgrades. But it turns out the state won't need both halls, and St. John said the state is backing off its rush to consolidate more than 40 data centers now spread out in agencies across Thurston County.
"Consolidations are happening naturally. At this point it doesn't look like we'll have a need for more than Hall 1. We have a broker we have contracted with who is looking at marketing Hall 2," St. John said in an interview.
Seattle-based broker Jones Lang LaSalle is trying to lease up to 30,000 square feet of the space for the state.
By "naturally," St. John was referring to making moves that coincide with expiring leases and equipment upgrades as they are needed. Even at that slower pace, St. John said the agency has reduced the number of data centers locally by half since moving into the new space last fall.
A state-funded report by Excipio Consulting said more than 1 ½ years ago that the 50,000 square feet of data space in the Department of Enterprise Services (DES) complex was far more than the state needed.
The CTS and DES agencies now are the main tenants in the $255 million complex at Jefferson Street that includes some 260,000 square feet of office space. The new office space, which the state is acquiring on a lease-to-own basis, is costing twice as much per square foot as many other agencies in Olympia pay.
The Office of Financial Management has said state costs for data services should fall below previous costs in five years in part due to cuts of more than 60 staffers before the move to the new facility. But tenant costs for space in the new office building are expected to remain higher — to the tune of about $30.4 million through fiscal year 2017, according to the consultant.
St. John said CTS is hoping that anyone willing to lease space in the data halls cannot only pay rent but also finish the upgrades.
Several lawmakers of both parties have questioned how the state might make use of the excess data-center space.
And Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna has used the data-center complex as a backdrop for a news conference at which he questioned the majority Democrats' approach to the budget.
Under pressure from state Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, who tried to halt construction of the complex in 2010, the state created a business plan last year for use of its facilities. The current effort to lease the data halls is a part of that plan, which the new state Office of Chief Information Officer is leading, according to St. John.
Carlyle has argued that data storage on "the cloud" and advances in "virtualization" — which uses the power of a few computers to store and manage far more data than previously was considered possible — would make the building unnecessary.
He tried in 2010 to get Gov. Chris Gregoire to revisit the decision and pull the plug on the project.
The agency agreed last week to restore collective-bargaining rights for 122 workers who had lost them in a sweeping 2011 bill that created the two agencies in a major agency restructuring.