by Max Brantley
The old Little Rock public library will indeed, as a tipster said here yesterday, become a data center for the Entergy Corp., operated by contractor SAIC. The move will be part of restructuring of Entergy operations that will, in all, bring about 100 info-tech jobs to downtown Little Rock. Some are already here thanks to relocations prompted by Hurricane Katrina.
Full release on the jump.
ENTERGY NEWS RELEASE
Soon the long-vacant former Little Rock Municipal Library building in downtown Little Rock will be buzzing with high-tech activity. The 76,000 square-foot structure at 700 Louisiana Street will serve as one of two primary data centers for the entire four-state Entergy system.
This will be an Entergy facility, but most of the people working there will be employees of SAIC, Entergy’s technology services provider.
The establishment of new data center operations in Little Rock will result in about 100 new professional jobs in the city. The old library building will be renovated to house approximately 20 employees engaged in the actual support of data center operations. Data Center support staff not working at the data center itself will work out of other Little Rock locations, including the Metropolitan National Bank Tower, where SAIC currently has offices occupying two floors.
Entergy has relied primarily on a single data center in Gretna, La., which is just across the Mississippi River from New Orleans. The center was damaged by the Hurricane Katrina, but is back to normal operations now with beefed-up back-up in Little Rock.
Prior to the establishment of the new data center, some 40 SAIC employees worked in Little Rock providing technical support in the areas of telecommunications, business application support (such as accounting systems), desktop computer support, and other functions.
About 100 positions were assigned to Little Rock to perform the functions noted above, as well as data center operations functions. As of today, SAIC has filled about 70 of those positions. So, currently there are 110 SAIC employees in Little Rock, and another 30 will be hired by next summer. All 140 are considered to be crucial in the ongoing process of disaster recovery and business continuity.
Annual payroll for the approximately 100 new jobs that will be in Little Rock supporting the data center is estimated at $8 million.
The data center represents a capital investment of approximately $41 million by Entergy in Little Rock. Extensive renovations will begin in December 2006, and the center is scheduled to be operational by the third quarter of 2007. The changes to the exterior of the building will include a new wall around the courtyard at the north end of the property, but the rest of the façade will remain mostly as is. Most of the renovation work will be done inside the building.
The new data center is in line with Entergy’s extensive post-hurricane long-range strategic planning, which concluded that the company’s corporate business functions would be transitioning to a new organizational configuration. The new configuration will include several primary offices in locations throughout Entergy’s service territory, in addition to the corporate headquarters in the Entergy Building in New Orleans. This organizational structure provides considerable flexibility to meet whatever challenges the company might face while maintaining business continuity.
The structural changes to the old library building are scheduled to be complete by June 2007, followed by installation throughout the summer of servers, monitoring equipment, cabling, mainframes, switches, hubs, security equipment, and other equipment.
In addition to the permanent jobs that will come with the data center, there will be many temporary construction and equipment installation jobs created as the facility is renovated and customized. Robert E. Lamb, an architecture and construction management firm specializing in high-tech facilities, will manage the renovation.
“This is going to be a state-of-the-art facility,” said Wayne Alphonso, Entergy director in charge of the project. “The reliability of the whole Entergy operation depends heavily on the reliability of its data centers, so it’s very important that this is done right.”
“The old library is an ideal location. Its size, structure and availability fit perfectly into our strategy and provide Entergy with an opportunity to perform the renovations and have the system operational before the peak of next hurricane season,” explained Alphonso.
Within the data center will be enough disk and tape data storage space to hold the equivalent of 1.1 billion books. The facility will have more than 20 miles of data communications wires with another six miles of fiber optic cabling.
Entergy owns a massive communications network that includes more than 2,000 miles of fiber-optic lines mounted on electricity transmission towers. The Little Rock data center will serve as the hub of that network, capable of processing 10 gigabits of data per second. That’s the equivalent of 16,000 household broadband connections.
The primary functions that take place in the data center will include the operations and support of Information Technology systems, which support Entergy’s corporate business functions, the operations and support of Entergy Transmission’s System Control and Data Acquisition System and Entergy’s System Operations Center computer systems.
Entergy is considering a similar facility in Jackson, Miss., that would be operational in 2008.