Social Security Finally Gets Shiny New (and Huge) Maryland Data Center

Social Security Finally Gets Shiny New (and Huge) Maryland Data Center

After many years in planning, facility badly needed to replace 34-year-old legacy building comes online

After a long and arduous road, the Social Security Administration has finally opened a data center that will replace a 34-year-old building in Baltimore, Maryland. The data center comes after several delays, including site selection snafus. It was funded by $500 million in economic stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The new 300,000-square-foot Social Security data center is in Frederick, along interstate 270. It replaces a legacy data center that was “severely limited” in its capacity. The agency said it “remain[ed] troubled about the growing risk of structural problems” at the old data center.

The data center is responsible for maintaining earnings and benefits information for nearly every American worker, processing 75 million transactions per day.

The new facility is one-third smaller than the building it replaces and uses about 30 percent less electricity than a typical data center, officials told the Washington Post. Four acres of photovoltaic panels supplement its power supply.

The General Services Administration's timetable for the data center was September 2014, so the new facility comes on time. However, the road to this data center goes back several years.

In April of 2010, government auditors expressed concern that the site selection process had not given enough consideration to the cost of electric power. By August it appeared that the selection process had been narrowed to two sites in Maryland, one in Urbana and another in Woodlawn, not far from the existing Woodland site of the agency’s primary data center.

The decision on location was set to occur in September 2010, but questions were raised about the SSA’s decision to buy new land rather than find existing space at the Woodlawn campus. The land purchase was scheduled for December 2010, and in September 2011 it was finally purchased in Frederick, near an existing Fannie Mae data center.

There is another Social Security data center in North Carolina, serving as backup facility for the Woodlawn site. It previously used a commercial data center for backup.

Data centers continue to be a priority issue for the federal government, which has been consolidating its sprawling critical facilities infrastructure.

The Government Accountability Office reported on Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI) last Thursday, estimating that agencies would save as much as $3.1 billion through next year by consolidating. The amount of savings they reported for the same period was $876 million, however, according to the report, which charged that there were big problems with reporting savings.

The U.S. Senate has voted in favor of legislating consolidation on Monday.

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