Virtualization, energy-saving drives SSA data center plans

Virtualization, energy saving drive SSA data center plans

The Social Security Administration is about two months away from passing a key milestone in its plans to consolidate its legacy data centers and build in its place a modern, energy efficient facility to streamline operations for the next generation of beneficiaries.

The SSA’s new Tier 3 National Support Center is a 300,000 square foot, $489 million facility located in Urbana, Md., designed to leverage new technologies, including server virtualization and thin provisioning to lower costs and closely scale resources.

SSA’s existing facility is its 36 year-old National Support Center, located at Woodlawn, Md.

In a recent blog post, SSA chief information officer Bill Zielinski said the agency is on course to meet its March 2015 schedule to set up much of the new center’s IT infrastructure, including networking and storage infrastructure.

In addition, SSA has made “significant progress” in preparations for migrating the center’s mainframe and open systems to the new facility, scheduled for this year. The progress made so far has enabled the NSC to have cut its monthly energy consumption for the first time.

The IT transition has been eased in part because much of the computing SSA plans to migrate to the new center runs on virtualized servers, Zielinski told FedTech.

Once the IT infrastructure is in, the SSA will work to migrate production applications, planned to run from April 2015 to the summer of 2016, Zielinski said. During the period, the NSC and the legacy facility will to co-process production operations.

After meeting its targets for consolidation, the NSC team will maintain its focus on energy features that will keep the new center’s systems running at high performance, Zielinski said, inclding including high density computing, hot aisle-containment, Energy Star equipment and solar power.

According to Zielinski, other energy and power saving features  for the new data center include the ability to monitor power use down to the level of branch circuits and to fine-tune management control.

Installation of LED lighting, a dedicated substation and more efficient heating and cooling systems will also help cut energy consumption by 30 percent compared to typical data.

Zielinski expects the features will save NSC hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in energy costs. To chart its ability to lower those costs, NSC has begun to to identify methods to measure the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of the current data center.

Once the PUE is measured, he said, NSC will use it as a baseline against our “to make sure we meet our targets for energy efficiency.”

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