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Doing More with Less By Consolidating Nearly 1,000 Data Centers

Steven VanRoekel discusses agencies' updated data center consolidation plans.

Stopping the waste of taxpayer dollars and optimizing government operations is at the heart of the Campaign to Cut Waste. That’s why during these tough budgetary times, the President has made clear that he expects agencies to do more with less.

One way we are delivering on the President and Vice President’s commitment is through the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative - an initiative to shutdown data centers we don’t need and consolidate and optimize those that we do. Data centers store data for agencies across the government, requiring significant energy to run and cool equipment, and they can be as small as server closets or as large as a football field. This past summer, we announced that agencies had identified 373 data centers to be closed by the end of calendar year 2012, with 81 closed already.  

Today, agencies released updated data center consolidation plans that are projected to save upwards of $5 billion. These plans reflect the Administration’s commitment to stretching taxpayer dollars even further – slashing waste and inefficiencies and focusing on improving services for the American people.  After more than a year of consolidation work, agencies now plan to close 962 data centers through 2015, with 472 to be closed by the end of the next calendar year. 

We also are expanding the project to more aggressively consolidate our data center footprint. First, we are widening the scope of the project to include even the smallest data centers (the original focus had been on data centers that were 500 square feet and above).  Shutting these facilities down increases agency IT efficiencies, strengthens our cybersecurity posture, and decreases the government’s energy and real estate footprint.  Given this broader scope and agency plans to close 962 centers, we also plan to expand our goal of 800 closures.

What do these closures mean in real terms? By shutting down and consolidating data centers, we can save taxpayers billions of dollars, curb spending on underutilized infrastructure, focus more resources on modernizing services the American people depend on, reduce our cyber security threat posture, increase sustainability within data centers and unlock capital, and enable agencies to reinvest in transformational IT investments, including cloud solutions.  In order to help agencies identify every opportunity for savings, the Data Center Task Force developed a total cost of ownership model that provides a uniform, standard way to assess data center cost savings across the government – including real estate, energy, and technology savings.  OMB will collaborate with agencies to use this tool this fall to tie these savings to real budget outcomes in the FY13 budget and beyond.

A second integral part of consolidation is optimizing investments the government already owns. This means a shift from the old model used in the last administration where the government created scores of new data centers that hog energy and real estate while only utilizing a fraction of the computing power purchased, to a model where we do more with less. And as we shutdown excess data centers, agencies are also busy optimizing existing data centers so we get the most bang for the buck.

For example, by shifting to cloud based solutions, the Federal Highway Administration recently cut the number of physical servers from 82 to 15, reducing the real estate space by 70%, utilizing 43% less power, and more than doubling the processing power for growth. The new network offers almost seven times more capacity (24TB to 163TB) for data storage.

By transforming the way government does IT, we will garner productivity gains that for too long left the Federal government behind the private sector, and will reap savings and improve services for the public. As agencies optimize their data centers, the government will become more secure by reducing the number of attack targets for hackers, more sustainable by reducing the carbon footprint of our data centers, more efficient with its use of Federal real property and more agile and more innovative as we expand our use of cloud services.

Steven VanRoekel is the Federal Chief Information Officer