Building a data center in a war zone is an extreme challenge requiring creativity, diplomacy, statesmanship, and the can do spirit. This is the story of an Iraqi and American mixed team that, with uncommon persistence and under extreme duress, built a world-class data center and fully functioning office complex.
The rebuilding of Iraq effort, which was funded by the United States Congress in 2003, allocated about $18 billion for Iraqi reconstruction and aid. Of that, about $7 million went to funding the building of a data center. In addition to software, the entire system included the buildings, air conditioning, elevators, office furniture, electricity, and the infrastructure for all the sites that needed the information. This was not a typical data center building project like one in the United States; this literally started with nothing.
"It won't do any good to build facilities if they can't be managed" said Dennis Plockmeyer, a retired Navy Construction Battalion Captain, and now, the Chief Information Officer for the Project Contracting Office Iraq, which oversees logistics for all of Iraq's $18 billion reconstruction initiatives.
Plockmeyer had been in Iraq since September 2003 and in Baghdad's green zone, a section of the city from which the coalition forces managed their major reconstruction efforts. I, a Navy Surface Warfare Officer Captain, had been in Iraq since December 2003 and had worked in and around Baghdad and other key cities for the Coalition Provisional Authority before joining Plockmeyer's team in July of 2004 as his Operations Director. We both served the Department of Defense (DoD) as senior civilians.
At the heart of the data center building plan was an effort to introduce an asset management system to Iraqi public officials who, in many cases, had never used anything more than pencil and paper to manage vital national assets. "It doesn't do any good if you build all of these facilities and then walk off without giving the recipients the tools and the wherewithal to manage them," said Plockmeyer.