VA Wants to Buy Data Storage the Way It Buys Electricity

Oleksiy Mark/

The department would only pay for what it actually uses.

The Veterans Affairs Department launched a potential procurement yesterday to acquire storage systems for its five data centers on a metered basis, the same way households and businesses buy electricity.

The VA Enterprise Operations division provides computing services -- including storage, disk mirroring and tape backups -- to department users as well as the Government Accountability Office, the National Archives and Records Administration, NASA, the Justice Department, the General Services Administration and the Federal Highway Administration.

VA operates data centers in Austin, Texas; Hines, Ill.; Martinsburg, W. Va.; Philadelphia; and Triangle, Va.

In a request for information to industry, VA said a storage-on-demand computing strategy would give the department access to large amounts of storage while only paying for what it needs at any given time.

“This approach aligns operational needs with procurement; reduces capital expenditures; provides ready-for-use capacity in as little as 72 hours; and possibly could negate maintenance costs,” VA said.

The Defense Information Systems Agency issued and later canceled a procurement for similar on-demand storage services. Budget shortfalls accounted for the reversal.

VA envisions acquiring a range of storage options, from inexpensive disk-based systems to massive arrays that can store and manage petabytes of data, according to the performance work statement.

EMS, IBM, Hitachi Data Systems and NetApp currently provide the department with a total of 50 storage systems.

Vendors have until Feb. 28 to respond to the RFI.

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(Image via Oleksiy Mark/