The Feds step up data center consolidation

Despite what seems to be gridlock in Congress, federal IT workers press on with ambitious data center consolidation.

About two years ago, the federal government set in motion an ambitious and broad initiative to dramatically reduce IT operations. The goal: slow the sprawl of the government data center footprint.

Well, current federal CIO Steven VanRoekel says the plan is exceeding original plans and targets. In this blog on the White House’s Office of Management and Budget website, VanRoekel says by the end of 2012, the federal government will have closed 740 data centers. By the end of 2015, it will consolidate at least 1200 data centers, or at least 40% of identified data centers – a goal that VanRoekel writes “requires us to continue aggressively rooting out duplication and waste in our expanded baseline of 3,133 data centers.”

The data centers comprise all sizes, ranging from some as big as a football field to others as small as a closet. They represent, VanRoekel reports, billions in wasted capital.

The consolidation and closures are expected to save taxpayers billions of dollars by cutting spending on underutilized hardware, software and operations; improving cyber security; shrinking energy and real estate footprints; and taking advantage of innovative technologies such as cloud computing.

The government recently expanded its initial plan, and in the fall VanRoekel and team announced plans to include in the consolidation initiative data centers of any size, not just those that are 500 square feet and above. Moreover, the government says it is paying close attention to areas within the remaining data centers where greater efficiencies can be realized.

VanRoekel points to the U.S. Census Bureau, which consolidated two of its major data centers this past year and closed a contractor-operated 6,570 square foot facility. That closure will lead to a savings of $1.7 million in annual operating costs starting in 2012. The use of virtualization and cloud technologies has enabled Census to reduce the data center power consumption of all its data centers by 10 percent.

I recently wrote about one slice of the federal government’s data center consolidation, that of the U.S. Department of Defense's. Among the goals of the various agencies within the Defense Department, the Army expects to close 185 of its data centers, or nearly half, by the end of fiscal year 2015, with further reductions possible. The Navy seeks reduce by half its data centers, also by 2015, and will focus on virtualizing applications and consolidating servers. The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) plans to cut its servers by 75 percent and close nearly all its data centers (at least 90 percent of them) by 2015, and the Military Health System target is to reduce the number of data centers by 70 percent over a five-year time frame. You can read more in my blog here.

There have been some bumps, however. The Defense Department picked 59 data centers to close this year. Of these, the department reports, the closure of all but four are on schedule. As for next year, the department says budget resolutions and funding issues have stalled some of the plans, noting that “although significant savings are expected in future years, those savings cannot be borrowed to fund required investments for consolidating data centers. Consolidation requires an investment in labor, new and more efficient hardware, upgrades to computer facilities, and increased operating costs when some legacy systems run in parallel with new systems.”

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