Data center consolidation a promising prospect for Gov

For the past few years, data center consolidation has been an area of increasing focus for the federal government. Several agencies have already made progress in this capacity, while others have been slower to adapt. Regardless of the speed of these efforts, many believe that data center consolidation and optimization have the potential to greatly improve agencies' performance and efficiency, Federal Times reported.

"Whether it's millions of dollars in savings, increased security or opportunities to harness big data, the potential that optimization holds for federal IT operations keeps data centers in the headlines and at the center of policy decisions across the government," the source explained.

According to the news provider, some IT leaders believe that a slow-and-steady approach is necessary for ensuring the security of data centers during the consolidation process. Others, however, are less wary of security concerns and more optimistic about the potential benefits.

Defense success
Perhaps the single best example of government data center consolidation efforts, the news source noted, can be found at the Defense Department. Testifying to Congress in February, former DOD CIO Teri Takai reported that the department closed 244 data centers in the first quarter of fiscal 2014.

Takai, who very recently stepped down from her post, also developed a 10-point-plan for modernizing the DOD's IT enterprise, FedScoop reported. This plan would, if enacted by her successors, further consolidate the DOD's data centers.

Beyond cost benefits
Speaking to the Federal Times, Mary Dixon, director of the DOD's Defense Manpower Data Center, noted that while cost savings are a major benefits, improved security may be the single greatest advantage.

"[U.S. Cyber Command] has said there is no way that I can properly deal with a cyberattack on the DOD network when I have so many hundreds of networks all over the place that I cannot possibly control," said Dixon, the news source reported. "So part of the idea of consolidating is to try to reduce the number of networks and be able to take action more quickly in the event of a cyberattack."

Additionally, Dixon told the news source that data center consolidation will help the DOD to leverage big data assets for analytics purposes. By integrating various data streams, organizations can gain clearer insight, which can have a major impact on policy decision-making.

Consolidation challenges
However, despite the progress made in this area, there are still significant data center consolidation challenges both in the DOD and the federal government in general, as Ann Barron-DiCamillo, director of US-CERT at the Homeland Security Department, explained.

"We've been giving them advice as far as what we're seeing as the data center consolidation is happening," she said, the Federal Times reported. "It hasn't changed – we still have the same three problems: confidentiality, availability and integrity of data as you consolidate."

Furthermore, Takai emphasized the fact that stakeholders' attitudes can sometimes hinder consolidation efforts. She told FedScoop that many of the DOD's stakeholders worried that data center consolidation, along with the adoption of shared services and standards, would potentially impede their performance.

"It doesn't matter whether you're at DOD or the State of California or whether you're at a private entity. Any time that you're looking for an organization to use more shared services, it's always very difficult," Takai said, the news source reported. "People feel that they don't have the same kind of control, and they want to make sure that they have the right service for their customers."

Considering the benefits to be gained, such concerns are not likely to halt consolidation efforts. But agency leaders would be wise to take these worries into account when developing their strategies and timelines.