Improved data center consolidation could save US government billions

For several years now, numerous federal agencies have been engaged in efforts to improve their infrastructures via data center consolidation. Yet as a recent survey highlighted, these projects have an uneven success rate. However, data center consolidation initiatives have the potential to save the United States government billions.

Huge potential
The survey, conducted by MeriTalk and underwritten by Actifio, included feedback from 150 federal IT decision-makers. The study determined that federal agencies are on pace to spend up to $16.5 billion annually by the year 2024 to store redundant non-production data – money that could be saved through improved data consolidation and management efforts. in 2013 alone, the average agency spent 27 percent of its total storage budget toward non-primary data. This year, that figure is projected to reach 31 percent, which will entail a cost of $2.7 billion.

"We've seen the dramatic impact of a more holistic approach to copy data management in the private sector for years now," said Ash Ashutosh, founder and CEO of Actifio. "Frankly I'm not surprised by the magnitude of the potential savings at the federal level, or that this has now come to light as the most significant barrier to FDCCI [Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative]."

Consolidation roadblocks
Yet for all of the financial incentives to improve data consolidation among federal agencies, serious challenges remain. For example, as the number of applications and data owners among federal agencies continues to grow, so, too, does the number of data copies, the survey found. One-third of those surveyed said their agencies do not base the number of copies maintained on the value of the original. Forty percent of all federal data assets exist in at least four iterations.

Asked to grade their own agencies' data consolidation efforts to meet the FDCCI's 2015 deadline, only 6 percent gave themselves an "A" rating. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said their agencies have maintained or increased the number of independent physical data centers since FDCCI's 2010 launch, rather than achieving consolidation.

This suggests that outside help may be needed. Agency decision-makers should consider partnering with third-party firms that can provide professional guidance and services to help them achieve their data consolidation goals. While budgets are tight, the potential savings more than justify such expenditures, as the survey highlighted.