USDA competes with private data centers

Chances are that if you contract with a third-party data center, it's going to be one that is owned and operated by a private company. Not always though.

For more than 30 years, the USDA has run a data center in Kansas City, Mo., that offers its services to other agencies. The USDA's National Information Technology Center (NITC) currently supports more than 30 agencies and 70,000 end users in nearly every county in the nation.

In 1997, the USDA was awarded a $150 million contract by the Federal Aviation Administration for data services. The USDA provides operational support around the clock.

NITC competes with commercial vendors for clients, so it has to stay on top of the latest technology and services. "You can no longer say the government can't do it as well as private industry," said Bill Johnson, director of USDA marketing at NITC. "Commercial competition has been for the best because we have had to focus our business on customer service and meeting our customers' needs."

NITC supports more than 525 commercial off-the-shelf products and manages more than 10.7 terabytes of disk storage. In addition to its three IBM Corp. mainframes, NITC has a client/server environment that supports Unix systems from Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM and Sun Micro-systems Inc.

NITC's services include storage management, database administration, Web hosting, dataset backups and disaster recovery. Testing, systems integration, technical documentation and technical support also are available.

"We have been very successful," Johnson said. "We are a fee-for-service organization, so we are not in it for a profit. We may not always have the lowest prices, but we have fun doing it."

More information on NITC is available at www.ocio.usda.gov/nitc.

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