January 4, 2011 – The Social Security Administration is preparing for a wave of baby boomers to reach retirement age. It’s doing so with data centers and legacy systems that are downright ancient, according to a financial assessment from the agency.

In report on fiscal and management issues facing the assistance agency, one of the top issues listed was the need for additional investment in IT infrastructure to support existing and expected workloads.

By next year, the primary data center for the Social Security Administration (SSA) will no longer be able to support the department’s telecommunications services and workloads, which are expected to continue increasing with the coming generation of retirees. In addition, significant structural problems and electrical capacity issues have made the construction of a new data center “imperative,” the report states.

There have been expansions to the National Computer Center, the agency’s 30-year-old data center, as well as the acquisition in 2009 of a second support data center for backup and emergencies. The agency has received more than $500 million toward replacing its main data center, though says in the report that a new facility would not be operational before 2015.

Along with the outdated data centers, the SSA is wrestling with restructuring or replacing legacy systems and applications, particularly its Common Object Business Oriented Language (COBOL) software. According to the report, the COBOL programs meet the agency’s high transaction volume and regulatory and reporting requirements, though it can be cumbersome and falls behind big data capabilities of newer programming languages. Based on cost and risk factors, agency consultants at Gartner suggested restructuring the COBOL applications as opposed to replacing them.

Other top priorities in the report include making corrections to retirement earnings data, strengthening standards with the use of Social Security numbers and increasing the use of electronic filings.

To view a PDF of the full report, visit here.


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