OMB moving forward with data center optimization policy

OMB moving forward with data center optimization policy

Data center consolidation is one of the more underappreciated elements of federal IT to emerge in recent years. Over time, agencies developed an ever-increasing number of IT services, along with all of the data these programs generate and collect. As a result, federal data centers became incredibly sprawling – an inefficient and costly state of affairs. 

In an effort to halt and reverse this trend, the government launched the U.S. Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative in 2010. This effort aimed to limit redundant infrastructure among agencies' IT systems, as well as drive down data center operating costs. These measures have proven somewhat, but not entirely, successful. However, there is a fair chance that these plans will yield greater results in the near future. Notably, the Office of Management and Budget is making final preparations to move forward with a data center consolidation and optimization strategy that will have a major impact on the federal data center landscape, as Nextgov contributor Jack Moore recently reported.

OMB plans
Speaking in Washington at an event focused on the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, Jamie Berryhill, chief of policy, budget and communications at the Office of Management and Budget, announced that the OMB will soon release a draft of its upcoming data center policy for public comment, the writer noted.

"The new data center policy will represent a significant refresh of the existing stance."

Berryhill went on to assert that the new data center management policy will represent a significant refresh of the existing stance. He explained that whereas previously the policy was almost entirely focused on consolidation, the new strategy will make optimization more of a priority. More specifically, the OMB is looking to improve data center energy efficiency and server utilization, among other metrics, Moore reported. 

The writer explained that the OMB's new approach to data center optimization is part of the Obama administration's broader effort to implement FITARA, which officially put into law previous efforts to achieve data center consolidation.

Progress so far
Yet while the OMB's recalibration to shift focus to data center optimization holds promise, it's important to recognize that data center consolidation efforts among federal agencies have a mixed track record so far. Moore pointed out the 2010 data center consolidation policy established a goal of closing 40 percent of all federal data centers by the end of this year, theoretically saving about $5 billion in the process. 

"The federal government currently operates 11,700 data centers, up from 9,000 in 2014."

The actual results have not quite measured up to these aims. The writer pointed out that federal agencies have shut down 3,300 data centers during this period. This figure is actually higher than the total number of data centers that were operational back in 2010, and yet the Government Accountability Office estimates that the federal government currently operates 11,700 data centers – a figure which stood at 9,000 in 2014, Federal News Radio reported. This highlights the fact that the rate of closures has simply not been able to keep pace with data center growth and sprawl. Additionally, the GAO found that the government has saved $2.5 billion through its data center consolidation efforts – a significant total, but only half of the original goal, according to Nextgov.

This indicates that data center optimization alone will not be sufficient to meet the federal government's goals in this area. Speaking to Federal News Radio, Tony Scott, the federal chief information officer, revealed that he plans to release a memo in the coming months which will establish new consolidation requirements for federal agencies. He explained that one of the key aspects of this memo will be a new effort to clarify many of the issues surrounding these initiatives.

"First, it will clarify and be more specific in terms of what the definition of a data center is," Scott told the news source. "And as you know all too well, there has been some degree of confusion on that in the past, and a lot of emotion around that as well."

Scott went on to assert that the ideal strategy will not purely center around either closing down data centers or reducing costs, but rather strike the right balance for maximum efficiency and performance.

This will obviously be a significant task for agencies throughout the federal government. For decision-makers in these departments, seeking out third-party assistance will likely prove invaluable for moving ahead with data center consolidation and optimization plans.