Who Will Service Minnesota’s Most Critical Computer Systems? State Releases Data Center Colocation RFP


State of Minnesota Office of Enterprise TechnologyThe State of Minnesota Office of Enterprise Technology last week announced the goal of consolidating more than 36 state data centers to between two and four over five years, followed by a 77 page Request for Proposals (RFP) seeking “a highly secure, industry-standard, third-party data center service to house the State’s most highly critical computer systems – up to 40 percent of combined executive branch business applications.”

In a 2008 independent study of State data centers, none were found to meet Tier III industry standards and the risk of failure from power loss, elements, security, etc. resulting in a loss of data was evaluated to be high for many of the data centers. “A co-location of the State’s data centers is expected to reduce risks, improve both security and efficiency, and bring down ongoing costs,” according to the release.

Starting on page 33 of the RFP:

The State of Minnesota is in need of a Data Center co-location space, services and network connectivity to the States existing data center facilities to meet the States needs.  This data center solution will need to be located within a Tier III (as defined by the Uptime Institute) facility.  The State is requiring a minimum of a Tier Level III Data Center standard, but does not require Tier IV criteria.  There is also potential for a managed services to be provisioned to the State of Minnesota both in the Tier III environment as well as internally at the State of Minnesota’s data centers.

Due to the significant changes in the market from both economic and technological standpoints, we are not designating a specific solution.  Our goal is to establish a contract or contracts with specific vendor(s) who can provide data center services to the State of Minnesota.  This solution should be outside of the Minneapolis and St. Paul downtown areas, but within the United States.

The current environment includes multiple data center locations and a diverse background from mainframes to distributed platforms. The State believes there is an opportunity to reduce costs and improve service levels by sourcing and implementing co-location and standardized services. These services would become an integral component to the State’s Service Catalog.

In summary, the current environment is estimated to have the following characteristics:

  • 38+/- Data Center/Computer Room locations
  • All locations are within Minnesota
  • Approx. 4000 +/- physical servers
  • Approx. 700 +/- virtual servers
  • 80+ different operating system versions
  • Multiple storage options

Minnesota’s Network for Enterprise Telecommunications (MNET) is the shared service infrastructure for the State’s managed wide area network (WAN). MNET consists of partnerships between government entities (higher education, counties, schools, cities, and state agencies) and the private sector, which provides high-capacity leased line network connections and associated services.”

State CIO Gopal Khanna calls it “[An] important business decision for the State,” and sees the mandate as a “a cost-effective way to lower our risks while minimizing investment and move costs.”

“Doing it together provides economies of scale and efficiencies no agency can realize on its own,” he says.

Governor Tim Pawlenty appointed Khanna in 2005 to lead the IT portion of an ambitious government reform agenda known as the “Drive to Excellence.” Among other things, Khanna pushed for standardization and consolidation of hardware/software acquisition and the move is the latest in the outgoing CIO’s efforts to enact changes to IT operations before he leaves his post mid-December; it’s unclear who his successor will be at this juncture.

Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Tom Hanson notes “The benefits of this plan are compelling from a financial perspective. In these economic times, it is hard to argue with the business case for sharing space to cut costs.”

It is hard to argue the business case and millions in taxpayer savings ultimately waiting to be captured by such an inevitable transition, but it would be reassuring to (at the least) perceive security as the top priority when it comes to Minnesota’s “most highly critical computer systems” — including executive branch business applications and data pertaining to higher education, counties, k-12 schools, city and state agencies.  According to the RFP, security accounts for 10% of the criteria, the contracted vendors experience and qualifications is also 10% and the physical facility represents 15% while pricing is weighted at 40%.

RFP Criteria


  • Ernnord

    Timing and specifications of this is somewhat curious. Is this a gazillion dollar payback for favorites, or a pre-fabricated stepping stone for Mr.Khanna?

  • Smogmanus

    You can bet their applications are already placed or their offices are setup for their outsoucer of choice. They have been at this for several years. Make no mistake it was the plan from the beginning.