GAO Finds Many Agencies Not Meeting Data Center Goals

Published: April 18, 2019

Data Center

GAO’s recent report on data center optimization progress finds many agencies far from meeting initiative goals.

Since 2010 the federal government has made a concerted effort to consolidate and optimize data centers, first with the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI) and then in FY 2016 with the Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI). The initiatives have been aimed at modernizing IT infrastructures, achieving cost savings and shoring up cybersecurity. DCOI goals were originally to be met by the end of FY 2018.  However, the FITARA Enhancement Act of 2017 extended the deadlines to October 1, 2020.

GAO’s recent report assesses agency progress toward meeting DCOI goals. GAO analyzed the progress of the 24 CFO Act agencies included in the effort and their data center optimization status as of August 2018. 

Thirteen agencies reported that they planned to meet data center closure goals by the end of September 2018 and 16 agencies planned to meet cost savings targets by then.  However, all 24 agencies reported limited progress at achieving the five data center optimization goals in the areas of server utilization and automation monitoring, energy metering, power usage effectiveness, facility utilization, and virtualization.  None of the 24 agencies had met all or even four of the targets for optimization. Only NSF, SSA and EPA reported meeting three of the five targets. Nine agencies have met one target, and 10 have met zero of the targets.

GAO also evaluated key practices among six of the agencies most successful at meeting DCOI goals.  Agency executives cited leadership support, enterprise-wide communication, use of past experience, and a focus on data center closures as top practices for success in data center consolidation and optimization in their agencies. 

In November 2018. OMB released a draft update to DCOI which would align it more closely with FITARA objectives and refocus efforts on projects that drive the most cost savings. OMB stated that although agencies had made great strides in consolidating data centers, to date they had failed to achieve data center closure, facility utilization, energy metering, virtualization, or cost savings targets on a government-wide basis. The new guidance states that OMB has seen diminishing returns on data center closures over the last eight years. 

The new guidance and metrics would be much less prescriptive and allow agencies and OMB to set goals and targets on a case by case basis.  The main intent would be to see improvement in metrics over time rather than to set arbitrary targets. Comments were due by December 26th. To date, no final guidance has been issued.

GAO’s findings seem to concur with OMB’s conclusions regarding data center optimization progress, potentially fueling the need for new guidance and metrics to help further progress.  

Federal contractors will continue to see opportunities to assist agencies with data center consolidation and optimization efforts. Opportunities exist in the areas of application rationalization, infrastructure modernization, cloud migration, and shared service migration.