Jun 05 2013

Is the Government on Track to Close 1,200 Data Centers by 2015?

Agencies report that the FDCCI may not be going as planned.

It’s been nearly two years since the Office of Personnel Management released the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI), and in a recent survey, 71 percent of federal IT workers reported that their agencies had closed data centers as part of the program.

While huge progress toward the ultimate goal of closing 1,200 data centers has been made, agencies still aren’t sure whether the initiative will be successful. Half of respondents to MeriTalk’s survey, “The FDCCI Big Squeeze,” said the goal can be met; the other half disagreed. Perhaps more important than the number of data centers closed is the amount of money saved. Just 32 percent of respondents reported quantifiable savings.

Check out a few of the key takeaways from the survey, which can be downloaded here:

Are agencies on target to close 1,200 data centers?

Federal IT workers were split on this question. Perhaps the real question is whether the number of data centers closed is the right metric. The initiative’s goal is to consolidate data centers, not close them. But is one huge data center more energy- and cost-efficient than five smaller data centers? This question is nearly impossible to answer until the transfer of data is complete and the old data centers are closed. By that point, budget and resources will have already been invested, and it will be far too late to go back.

Is consolidation harder than it sounds?

It would be unfair to present the consolidation of hundreds of data centers as a simple project. MeriTalk wondered why, exactly, federal IT workers are struggling to meet former federal CIO Vivek Kundra’s FDCCI iniative.

There are a number of issues, but 48 percent of those surveyed reported that they were having trouble finding the budget to make it happen. When asked whether “the cost of closing data centers [will] outweigh the amount of savings your agency will realize,” 53 percent weren’t sure, 31 percent didn’t believe it would, and 16 percent said it would ultimately save money.

This is particularly frustrating since the objective is to save agencies’ budgets. If agencies plan to save in the long term, they will have to invest in the short term.

Other than budget, what are the benefits of consolidating?

Data center consolidation has a number of benefits besides cost-savings. According to MeriTalk, 60 percent of federal IT workers said they had found better ways to use their staff, and 47 percent had been able to use new, more efficient tools.

FDCCI also opens the door for cloud computing. Many agencies, including the GSA and the Agriculture Department, have moved their email to the cloud and netted huge cost-savings as a result. The lesson here is that the benefits of data center consolidation could be indirect, and like most things in government IT, answers aren’t always black and white.

Download the survey here.