Agencies may be underestimating data center consolidation’s benefits

When it was first launched in 2010, the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative was essentially a product of necessity. Federal data centers were becoming increasingly sprawling, leading to myriad problems – excessive costs, underwhelming performance, administrative headaches and more. 

Without a doubt, the FDCCI has made significant progress in this regard. In fact, FedTech Magazine recently asserted that the FDCCI's advantages extend far beyond cost-savings and other obvious benefits. Indeed, many agency leaders are likely underestimating the FDCCI's value and should consider ramping up their data center consolidation efforts. 

Additional benefits
The news source identified a number of key data center consolidation benefits that agencies may have otherwise overlooked. Most notably, these efforts have helped agencies to improve cybersecurity, increased efficiency, delivered superior disaster recovery capabilities and more. 

To highlight this advances, the news source examined the Broadcasting Board of Governors' efforts toward data center consolidation. By following this path, the BBG pared down the number of storage and operating systems that it needed to utilize and oversee. As a result, the BBG eliminated some of the older versions of operating systems that were more vulnerable to cyberattacks, while also reducing the need for regular updating and patching.

"Consolidation allowed BBG to pour a tremendous amount of additional money toward its primary mission."

At the same time, data center consolidation allowed BBG to pour a tremendous amount of additional money toward its primary mission, rather than using those funds to maintain IT systems, the news source reported.

Virtualization has proven critical in this and other federal data center consolidation efforts. The General Services Administration, for example, virtualized 75 percent of its applications, according to FedTech Magazine. Consequently, the GSA was able to close 81 noncore data centers and decommission 551 servers. Forty-one more noncore facilities are scheduled for elimination in the coming years, as well.

Andre Mendes, interim CEO and director of the BBG, told the news source that data center consolidation, virtualization and cloud integration all combine to make workers throughout an organization more effective and productive.

"We see a tremendous increase in functionality and reliability, and we're basically allowing the agency to operate in a more efficient way," said Mendes, the source reported. 

More progress needed
However, despite all of these positive outcomes, a number of industry experts suggest that the federal government can and should go much further in its data center consolidation efforts, according to Federal Times. 

"The FDCCI will likely have closed nearly 3,800 data centers by the end of the year."

The news source noted that the FDCCI will likely have closed nearly 3,800 data centers by the end of the year, producing savings of approximately $3.3 billion since 2011. 

However, Anthony Robbins, vice president of Brocade Federal, told the source that federal agencies could potentially see far greater returns by pursuing a more ambitious data center consolidation strategy.

"Those were pretty good goals, but they weren't aggressive enough," said Robbins, according to Federal Times. "We should be able to run the government on far less than 1,000 data centers."

Currently, the government relies on about 6,000 data centers, the news source noted. 

Part of the problem is that the government has thus far focused its data center consolidation efforts on the most obvious and simplest objectives, while overlooking options that would be more challenging but also potentially more rewarding, as Steve Cronin, director of government sales for Schneider Electric, told the news source.

"The government is definitely and has been moving forward with consolidation. Their initial steps were focused around closing data centers and consolidating into existing spaces because it was quicker and it was easier," Cronin said, according to Federal Times. "Where we've been for the last 18 months is the more time-consuming and challenging part: How do you optimize the data centers we have left?"

Expertise needed
Robbins further noted that the stakes involved in federal data center consolidation efforts are growing. The longer it takes for agencies to upgrade their capabilities, the more costly IT maintenance will become. 

But for government groups to take the next step toward optimized data center consolidation, outside expertise will likely prove essential. Agencies will need to work closely with third-party solutions providers with robust experience in this field. Specifically, agency leaders should look for vendors that have proven track records of working in the public sector on both data center consolidation and cloud integration efforts. Only an IT partner staffed by experienced experts can enable government agencies to maximize their data center consolidation benefits.