More Federal Data Center Work on the Horizon

Published: March 09, 2016

Data CenterOMBPolicy and Legislation

Last week, federal CIO Tony Scott, released a draft of a new Federal Data Center Optimization Plan. The draft memo sets a framework for achieving the data center consolidation and optimization requirements of FITARA, and is meant to refresh and refocus the federal data center strategy. The proposed plan also establishes criteria for successful data center efficiency plans and the metrics that OMB will use to measure successful implementation of these strategies.

The Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI) was launched in 2010 to lower the energy and real estate footprint of government data centers; reduce the cost of data center hardware, software, and operations; shift IT investments to more efficient computing platforms; and increase the overall IT security posture of the government. The original initiative was to conclude at the end of FY 2015.

Since the launch of FDCCI, agencies have made a number of accomplishments, but progress has also been mixed.  According to a new GAO report regarding the progress of federal data center consolidation, agencies had closed 3,125 data centers through the end of FY 2015 and reported savings and cost avoidance of $2.8 billion from FY 2011 to FY 2015.  However, GAO identified 10 agencies that have closures planned for FY 2016 through FY 2018, but have not fully developed cost savings goals for these fiscal years.  Additionally, 22 agencies made limited progress against OMB’s FY 2015 data center optimization performance metrics, such as data center facility utilization.

The new data center optimization plan puts the responsibility of meeting new requirements and measuring progress squarely on the shoulders of the agency CIO, who is to be responsible for all data center infrastructure and services, including those provided by third parties.

The plan also emphasizes migration to cloud and shared services.  “Consistent with the Cloud First policy, agencies shall use cloud infrastructure where possible, taking into consideration the cost, elasticity, and resiliency benefits of provisioned environments when planning new mission or support applications,” the plan states.  The plan also establishes GSA’s Office of Government-wide Policy as a managing partner tasked with establishing and maintaining a data center shared services marketplace and coordinating shared services for inter-agency consumption.  

To help control data center sprawl, the memo states that starting six months after issuance, “agencies may not budget any funds or resources toward initiating a new data center or significantly expanding an existing data center without approval from OMB Office of the CIO.

During the time of the FDCCI, the definition of a data center evolved.  The new OMB plan further refines the definition of a data center to cover rooms with at least one server, but not rooms containing only routing equipment, switches or telecommunication components.  Data centers will also be classified as either tiered or non-tiered for purposes of the new optimization plan’s metrics and goals. Tiered data centers are defined as those that utilize separate physical space for IT infrastructure, an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), an independent cooling system, and a backup power generator.

For tiered data centers, agencies will be required to install automated energy metering tools to collect and report to OMB data center energy usage by the end of FY 2018.  Tiered data centers will be required to achieve and maintain a 1.5 Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) metric by the end of FY 2018.

Additionally by the end of FY 2018, agencies will be required to use automated infrastructure management in lieu of manual collection and reporting of systems, software, and hardware inventory.

The plan sets forth goals for optimization to include energy metering, PUE, virtualization, server utilization and automated monitoring, and facility utilization. It also sets a goal of $1.36 billion in total savings to be achieved on physical data center spending FY 2014 through FY 2018.  Finally, the new plan specifies the closing of at least 25% of tiered data centers government-wide and at least 60% of non-tiered data centers by the end of FY 2018.

The draft plan is open for comment until the end of the month.  As of this writing it has received seven comments.  The final policy is likely to be published in about 90 days, but the draft version gives us insight into OMB’s optimization direction which appears to be consistent with FITARA and other federal initiatives in place to drive IT efficiency.