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Data Center Consolidation Gets Under Way

Federal agencies must eliminate 800 data centers over the next five years. Here’s how they plan to do it.

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InformationWeek Government - December 2010

The first two phases of the federal government's long-term data center consolidation effort--an agency-by-agency inventory of data center assets, followed by submission of draft consolidation plans--have been completed. Now begins the hard work: Implementing those plans, with the goal of reducing the number of federal data centers by 40% by 2015.

It's an aggressive goal, but one that has the backing of President Obama. In June, Obama issued a memo instructing agencies to adopt a zero-growth strategy for data center space over the near term, to be followed by a reduction in data center floor space over the next five years.

Four months before that presidential memo, federal CIO Vivek Kundra introduced the government's overarching plan, the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI). At the time, Kundra laid out a series of deliverables with deadlines culminating on Dec. 31, 2010, when the final data center consolidation plans are to be approved by the Office of Management and Budget.

While many private sector companies have been scaling back the number of data centers they operate for several years, the trend among federal agencies has been the opposite--skyrocketing growth. The number of federal data centers has quadrupled over the past 12 years, from 432 in 1998 to 2,094 in 2010. Agencies with the most data centers are the departments of Defense (with 772), State (361), Interior (210), and Health and Human Services (185).

For the first nine months of the FDCCI, the feds moved down the path of data consolidation in concept, but without a firm target for reducing the overall count. In November, Kundra stopped the waffling and said the goal is to reduce the number of federal data centers by 40% by 2015. That means eliminating some 800 data centers over the next five years.

Agencies are now working with OMB to ensure that their targets are realistic. The approved plans will be released along with the fiscal 2012 budget, in the first quarter of 2011.

Although agencies have completed inventories of their data centers--a tally of the number and types of servers, terabytes of storage, number of virtualized systems, and square footage--OMB hasn't released the results of that exercise. Getting a firm handle on the government's data center assets hasn't been easy. Last year, in a preliminary count, OMB determined that there were 1,100 federal data centers; a more comprehensive review this year resulted in the much higher assessment of 2,094 data centers.

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