GM will manage global data from Warren, Michigan (Photo: GM)

General Motors opened a new 130 million-dlr data center this week, as the automaker continues its company-wide IT transformation.

The center - in Warren, Michigan, outside Detroit - will serve as the backbone for all of the company's global computing operations. It is one of just two that will replace 23 global IT centers over the next two years. Construction on a second data center in Milford, Michigan, will begin this summer and will be completed in 2014. The data consolidation is at the heart of GM's plan to make its IT operations more efficient.

"Having a single nerve center for our global operations will get newer vehicle designs and technologies into our customers' hands quicker and improve the bottom line," GM CEO Dan Akerson said at the opening of the new facility. He added that the consolidation removes "unnecessary complexity" and will boost operational efficiency.

The automaker provided several examples of the benefits data consolidation would bring. It said centralizing data in Warren would make it easier to simulate crash tests, which saves 350,000 dlrs for each physical crash test avoided. Engineering expenses will also be cut as a new application lets product developers make tooling payments to suppliers throughout the development cycle. This will help suppliers better prioritize the timing of critical parts. And GM said the consolidated data center will make it easier to track and analyze car sales data, which would help the company better plan for future sales.

GM will use the two data centers to create a secure, private cloud that allows super-computer applications, servers and data storage to be efficiently and quickly accessed among multiple users.

Randy Mott, GM's CIO said the data center consolidation is just one part of the transformation of the company's IT he has been spearheading over the past year. "It’s part of an overarching strategy to transform not only information technology but also allow GM’s business operations to be more responsive to our customers, quicker to market and deliver on our objectives to shareholders,” Mott said in a press release.

Mott's IT revamp also means he is bringing in-house the bulk of all IT services. In the process, he is terminating a broad range of IT service contracts and is hiring IT staff globally. In an interview with automotiveIT last year, Mott explained that one of the major benefits of an in-house IT operation is that knowledge is retained within the company. And he said that working with inhouse IT staff would provide a big boost to innovation within the company.

GM's new 5,040-square-foot IT Operations and Command Center in Warren is equipped with 48 work stations and a 955-square-foot video wall. The wall consists of 28 configurable screens that monitor data use across operations around the clock.

With only two data centers running global IT, GM had to choose the locations of the facilities carefully. It opted for Milford, where its Milford Proving Ground is located, because that puts the two locations more than 25 miles but less than 50 miles apart. This allows data to be mirrored so that each facility will have all data available in case of a problem.

"It's all about reducing risk and making sure no one event would affect both centers at the same time," said Curt Loehr, GM IT project manager.