Social Security Administration picks the wrong data center site, mistakes in power costs, telecommunications access, and cost of construction

This would be funny, if it wasn’t a potential $500 million data center built by the US Gov’t by the Social Security Administration. The Office of Inspector General caught the error.

In particular, when developing the mandatory selection criteria, it does not appear that consideration was given to the serious fiscal impact that exclusions would have in the electrical power cost arena over the life cycle of the data center. Finally, in evaluating the telecommunications criteria concepts, SeBS found only limited information.

SeBS, Strategic e-Business Solutions uses system engineering techniques.

Service Offering: Systems Engineering Services
· Provide full range of system engineering support for aerospace and telecommunication systems including manned and unmanned aircraft, satellites, shipboard systems and fixed facility installations.
· Oversea engineering change requests, conduct systems acceptance testing, test and evaluation and system IV&V.
· Develop Performance based specification for obtaining resources to perform customer service support services from the vendor community.
· · Provide full lifecycle support in requirement development and validation. 

From the reading the report, it seems like the SSA site selection team became obsessed with a few criteria that are uptime risks (man-made and natural disasters), and who cares about the power bill or whether there is access to fiber.  And, SSA picked a site that was hard to build a data center.

SeBs evaluation found that in general, the Social Security Administration (SSA) developed a highly sophisticated set of selection criteria with which to evaluate general geographic areas of consideration and prospective individual properties. The Agency’s decision criteria avoided major areas that potentially are hazardous to the operation of a data center (including both natural and man-made risks). In addition, the criteria define major site and data center construction issues that would ultimately have a significant impact on the site
property to be selected. However, questions remain concerning SSA's process employed in narrowing the site properties down to a short list. In addition, the initial mandatory selection criteria applied to the geographic regions under consideration may have excluded too many locales.

SSA accepted 22 of 25 recommendations from SeBs.

I wonder who the original vendor was who consulted the SSA for site selection.

Thanks to the folks at DataCenterDynamics reported on this issue, and I found the SSA OIG document.