Feds Reverse Trend, Make Forward Progress on Closing Datacenters

Until recently, the three-year effort to close datacenters ended up raising the count instead.

At least one division of the federal government has made some progress on the three-year effort to reduce the number of datacenters maintained by various agencies.

The General Services Administration (GSA) announced Oct. 29 it had closed 37 datacenters during the 2013 fiscal year as part of the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI), which was launched in 2010.

The agency also reorganized its IT staff, putting everyone under the management of a centralized GSA IT office, under the supervision of GSA CIO Casey Coleman. The agency has suffered through years of disorganization due to a siloed organizational structure in which different CIOs served different functional areas of the GSA, with some IT staffers even reporting to units other than IT.

“Closing datacenters are an important part of GSA’s efforts to shrink the federal footprint,” Coleman is quoted as saying in a public statement from the GSA.

The datacenter-consolidation effort was launched by then-federal-CIO Vivek Kundra to reverse the proliferation of federal datacenters caused by a lack of coordination and resource-sharing among agencies that bled federal IT budget dollars through hundreds of underutilized sites offering redundant capabilities.

An Office of Management and Budget (OMB) report published in February, 2010, when FDCCI was launched, predicted that closing 800 datacenters out of a total of 2,100 would save $3 billion by 2015.

But by July 2013, most progress on the consolidation seemed to have been in reverse: Rather than 2,100 datacenters, federal agencies reported more than 3,133 datacenters – a number that rose to more than 7,000 after the definition of “datacenter” was expanded to include small standalone facilities and server closets.

Pressed by the Obama administration for progress on the consolidation and a more achievable goal, federal CIOs led by the GSA settled on a target of closing 40 percent of non-core federal datacenters by the end of fiscal 2014.

Closing facilities saves money in real-estate costs, facilities maintenance, equipment and equipment maintenance, personnel costs and reduced power use, according to the OMB. GSA, which was criticized in OMB reports for making little progress on its own consolidation despite being responsible for the FDCCI as a whole, is among the first agencies to report a significant number of closures.

The Dept. of Defense, which is the single largest owner of datacenters among federal agencies, is reducing the number of its datacenters from 700 to less than 100 and cutting the number of network operations centers from 65 to 25, according to a Sept. 18 story in Government Computer News.

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) announced Oct. 31 that it had closed datacenters in Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to a story in Federal Times.

The closures are part of the overall DoD consolidation effort, which also includes a project called the Joint Information Environment Initiative (JIEI) designed to integrate all the DoD’s disparate data systems and formats into a single, manageable infrastructure.

The Dept. of Energy is virtualizing much of its hardware as it consolidates, converting 13 datacenters and server farms into a private cloud and shrinking the number of physical servers in one datacenter from 700 to 16, cutting energy use in half in the process, according to GCN.


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