Survey: US agencies aren't tracking data center use

A lack of tracking raises questions about an effort to close hundreds of data centers, a vendor says

By , IDG News Service |  Data Center, energy consumption

Even though the U.S. White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has pushed government agencies to reduce the number of data centers they operate, a new survey has found that most agencies aren't tracking how close to capacity their data centers are or how much energy they're using.

The survey, of 157 U.S government IT decision-makers, found that only 25% are tracking the amount of storage capacity used at their data centers, and only 26% are tracking their data centers' energy consumption. Twenty-three percent of respondents said they can track the savings from data center consolidation, the survey said.

Just 41% of respondents said their agencies track the number of servers they operate at data centers, and just 32% track their annual storage spending, according to the survey, released this week by MeriTalk, an online network focused on the government IT community.

The survey raises questions about an OMB plan to close hundreds of government data centers in the next four years in an effort to save money and reduce energy consumption, said Mark Weber, president of the U.S. public sector division at NetApp, a network storage vendor that commissioned the survey. Weber doesn't dispute that there are too many U.S. government data centers, but better tracking would tell OMB which ones should be closed, he said.

"They're really counting physical things, not how efficiently those physical things are utilized," Weber said. "How do you know what to consolidate until you know how efficient it is?"

It would be "common sense" to track data center capacity and energy use before moving forward with OMB's data center consolidation proposal, Weber said.

The survey seems to show a huge gap between private industry tracking of data center use and the federal government's, Weber added. Just 31% of survey respondents from federal agencies knew the average load across their data centers, compared to more than 90% in the private sector, he said.

The survey isn't all bad news for the federal government, he said. "Look what they could be doing if they start tracking these things and determining how efficiently the assets they have are being utilized," he said. "Look at how much savings they could gain."

The U.S. government operates about 2,100 data centers, outgoing federal government CIO Vivek Kundra said in a federal IT reform proposal released in December. Kundra, leaving OMB for Harvard University later this year, called on agencies to close 800 data centers by 2015.

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