Nov 04 2011

Tough Progress on Data Center Consolidation

Agencies strive to meet even more challenging target in federal mandate.

Eight hundred data centers by 2015 — remember that goal?

When former federal CIO Vivek Kundra announced that target back in 2010, it was a daunting challenge — and it's only gotten steeper now that new federal CIO Steven VanRoekel has increased the number to 962.

When Kundra took his position as the federal IT chief, no one even knew how many federal data centers there were, and it took eight months to find out.

The effort has picked up momentum since then, and agencies have made major strides toward the target. Already there are plans to shut down 472 data centers by the end of 2012, including 81 that agencies have shuttered already.

But despite the progress, the heavy lifting is far from done. Challenges remain as agencies identify additional facilities to close and figure out appropriate data migration strategies.

To achieve the 2015 goal, agencies must continue to invest in necessary resources — both in technology and in the expertise of federal IT professionals and industry partners.

Maintaining Momentum

To maintain the pace of these efforts, agencies must avoid several pitfalls. The facilities that will house the operations of closed data centers must be able to handle the increased load. The buildings must have adequate floor space and must be able to meet the additional energy demands.

When consolidating their data centers, agencies must also make sure that access — both physical and logical — is managed securely and efficiently. And the networks at these facilities must be able to handle the increased demand for bandwidth that comes with consolidation.

Consolidation efforts also present opportunities for agencies to upgrade their facilities. For example, agencies can implement high-efficiency uninterruptible power supplies to improve energy use and load management technology to boost computing operations. And agencies can find benefits in cloud computing, as several have done with e-mail migrations to either private or hosted clouds. Virtualization also is helping drive consolidation efforts.

Additionally, several experts have stressed the importance of having top-notch project managers who can balance competing demands and resist pressures applied by external sources.

The Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative is an inspired effort, with the potential to help agencies maintain service to citizens while reducing expenses during a time of extremely tight budgets. But even with all the progress that's been made, achieving the initiative's goals won't be easy. Kundra's departure from the government in late summer removes the initiative's architect, but with the savvy use of technology and strong leadership, the effort can continue and succeed.