As the General Services Administration consolidates its own data centers, it’s also tasked with helping other agencies consolidate theirs.
It’s a monumental task. The GSA says it is willing to help. The agency provides customized guidance from in-house experts, white papers featuring best practices and a monthly forum where agency IT leaders can collaborate and learn from each other.
“We work with agencies to help identify their low-¬performing data centers and provide best practices for migrating them to the cloud or utilizing interagency shared series as an optimization solution,” says Dan Pomeroy, director of GSA’s Data Center Optimization Initiative Program Management Office.
The DCOI PMO hosts the DCOI Community of Practice, a monthly forum where agency IT leaders can discuss and share their consolidation experiences, Pomeroy says.
As the Office of Management and Budget notes, agencies can use the COP to “participate in a forum to collaborate on their data center optimization strategies and to discuss topics, including OMB reporting best practices, data center infrastructure management, and shared services marketplace participation.”
Progress on Data Center Consolidation, but Challenges Remain
Overall, the government is about two-thirds of the way to its goal of consolidating 4,477 data centers by Sept. 30, the end of fiscal 2018, according to the most recent statistics on ITdashboard.gov.
However, the entire government is unlikely to hit the target. Thankfully, federal agencies received something of a reprieve in November when President Donald Trump signed into law the FITARA Enhancement Act of 2017. The law makes permanent aspects of the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act regarding the transparency and risk management in IT investments. Perhaps most significantly, it extends the deadline for agencies to meet the requirements of the Data Center Optimization Initiative until Oct. 1, 2020. The previous deadline had been Oct. 1, 2018.
Agencies face hurdles to closing data centers, according to a recent MeriTalk survey.
The survey, based on an online survey conducted in December and January of 150 federal IT managers familiar with their agency's data center(s) and data center modernization efforts, found that just 19 percent of federal IT managers say their agency was very likely to meet the original deadline to close 25 percent of tiered data centers (large data center facilities). Only 13 percent reported they were very likely to meet the requirement to close 60 percent of nontiered data centers.
There are several reasons why agencies face hurdles to data center consolidation. According to the survey, 84 percent have a formal data center modernization strategy, but only 47 percent are applying it consistently agencywide.
Additionally, just 35 percent say their agency has a modernization leadership team or a formal vision for their future data center, and only 32 percent have audited data center(s) to understand current capabilities and shortcomings. Further, just 22 percent have created a list of data centers to move or close, and only 19 percent have published a shared services catalog.
Despite the challenges, 73 percent of those surveyed say the drive to close, consolidate and optimize data centers is a necessary precursor to the larger goal of IT modernization. About half of those surveyed (51 percent) say it will improve government security while 41 percent say it will increase data access for advanced analytics and decision-making. Large percentages also say it will reduce infrastructure maintenance costs (36 percent) and will simplify the architecture of government IT (35 percent).