OMB accelerates plan to shutter data centers

The federal government is taking bolder steps toward the consolidation of data centers, hoping to shutter 472 facilities by year’s end and 962 by 2015, federal CIO Steven VanRoekel said during a conference call Oct. 6.

Previously, the Office of Management Budget set goals of shuttering 373 data centers by the end of 2011 and 800 by 2015, with a goal of saving $3 billion annually.

The government has closed 81 data centers to date and now envisions saving $630 million in the near term with the current consolidation plans and $5 billion savings in the years beyond 2015, VanRoekel said.

Agencies will post data center consolidation plans online on Oct. 7. A more comprehensive agency-to-agency breakdown will be available at the end of the year, VanRoekel said.

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OMB has also launched a new data center cost model “to drive an apples-to-apples comparison on the way agencies budget and drive behavior on closing data centers,” VanRoekel said. The cost model will give OMB and CIOs across agencies the tools to compare with other agencies whether they are doing the right things to close data centers.

When VanRoekel became federal CIO, he saw a lot of inconsistencies in both the way agencies were managing their closure planning and data center optimization. Working with the Data Center Consolidation Initiative Task Force, which has 24 agency members, a tool was created that can more effectively help agencies manage and budget for data center optimization and closures, VanRoekel said.

Additionally, OMB has increased the scope of data centers to capture all square footage. Previously, the assessment of data centers focused on facilities of 500 square feet and larger. Now the government is looking at facilities of 100 square feet and larger, such as wiring closets that include servers.

By saving power usage and square footage, agencies can not only save money but provide more efficient service to citizens, VanRoekel noted.

For instance, data center consolidation has put the Transporation Department's Federal Highway Administration in a better position to help DOT  run more efficiently. Given the initiatives to improve aging highway and bridge infrastructures and the imperative for traffic safety,  DOT needs to run efficiently.

FHA has built a new enterprise architecture that includes cloud computing and security enhancements. The agency has reduced the number of servers it uses form 82 to 15 and is using 72 percent less space and 42 percent less power. FHA has also expanded the space for storage and processing growth. So, FHA is not only achieving cost savings but is doing more with less, VanRoekel said.

“We have been pushing hard the imperative across government to do more with less,” VanRoekel said.

VanRoekel said there is a people component to data center optimization; agencies can use fewer people to manage the data center.

However, VanRoekel anticipates that as data centers close, employees can be moved to higher-value jobs. The government can get more out of its employee base by moving them to jobs that focus on lowering the friction for business and on citizen interaction with government, working on productivity programs to help federal employees work more efficiently, or maximize return on investment across the federal landscape.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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Reader Comments

Fri, Oct 7, 2011

It only saves money if you are renting commercial space. If the data center is in a GSA/DoD owned building, at best, you are saving power. The theoretical 'rent' paid from one part of the government to another should be removed from the equation- that money never really existed, it is just an accounting housekeeping fiction. The landlord agency will ALWAYS get enough to cover their expenses, even if they have to raise the per foot rate on the remaining space. I also don't see this project talking much about the increased comm costs, if you move a server (even a virtual one) accross the country, or the payback period from all the work to collapse the raised-floor footprint.

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