IT cost-cutting estimates add up

Saving is rarely as exciting as spending. And when the news is focused on legislation that requires hundreds of billions of dollars in stimulus spending, calls for greater efficiency can get lost in the glare of lights from the Capitol Hill press conferences.

Nevertheless, if someone says they know how to save more than $20 billion of the federal information technology budget, it’s worth a listen.

MeriTalk — an online community for government IT, workforce and policy leaders — recently released a study concluding that the government can save $23.6 billion by adopting open-source applications, employing virtualization technologies, and turning to cloud computing and software-as-a-service delivered via the Internet.

Admittedly, the numbers behind the numbers are a tad sketchy: The study’s calculations are based on others' estimates. For example, the group predicts that implementing open-source software at federal agencies could save $3.7 billion. MeriTalk assumed agencies would be starting from scratch, and it cited an estimated savings of 6.2 percent of each organization’s budget — a number derived from a Standish Group survey of chief information officers.

Likewise, MeriTalk said the government could save $13.3 billion by using virtualization technologies. The group based that projection on an estimated IT budget savings of 22 percent, citing an estimate by the Office of Management and Budget.

Finally, MeriTalk forecasts potential savings of $6.6 billion from adopting cloud computing and software-as-a-service. That number is based on a Gartner estimate quoted in InfoWorld.

However, just because the numbers are sketchy doesn’t mean they aren’t somewhere near the truth. But we’d be wise to get some harder numbers. Perhaps a few hundred thousand dollars of the stimulus money could be spent on a formal investigation into just how much agencies could save by implementing such technologies.

MeriTalk’s report is available at

About the Author

Patrick Marshall is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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