Network complexity stymying federal data center consolidation efforts

Across the government, agencies are striving to comply with the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative, which aims to bring the government's total active data center count to fewer than 500 by 2015. However, these efforts are not going smoothly, as the complexity of federal networks stymies consolidation, FedScoop reported.

Complex endeavors
The news source noted that when the FDCCI initially went into effect a few years ago, progress was quick and relatively easy. Before long, agencies had shut down 400 data centers. However, the effort soon ran into difficulties, and it is now unclear whether the government will achieve its consolidation goal.

While there are likely a number of factors that have slowed federal data center consolidation, the biggest single issue is probably the overall complexity of these networks.

"The complexity of some of those federal data centers today doesn't really lend itself to consolidation," Daemon Morrell, director of systems engineering for Brocade, told the news source.

A recent survey of federal agency administrators by Brocade and MeriTalk supported this notion. More than half of respondents said that network complexity has gone up over the last year, and more than two-thirds expect this trend will continue for the next three years. Critically, almost everyone who responded said their agency has experienced downtime as a result of network complexity in the past year, and this downtime has exerted a negative impact on the agency mission.

Two factors
According to Morrell, there are two main factors driving federal network complexity, the news source reported. First and foremost is the adoption of BYOD-friendly policies, allowing federal employees to access networks with a wide range of devices. Second, agencies are creating a number of new systems in response to mobility issues that BYOD is generating.

"One really drives the other," said Morrell, the source noted. "What we are seeing is that agencies have problems with their mobility programs and then vendors come in with these quick-hit, proprietary solutions that fix the small problem but don't mesh with anything else."

Response needed
Considering this state of affairs, new approaches may be necessary. This is especially true in light of the stakes involved. A recent survey from MeriTalk and Actifio found that data center consolidation efforts could potentially save the federal government as much as $16.5 billion through 2024. These savings would largely be achieved by reducing money spent toward storing non-primary data.