Agencies Continue Data Center Progress but Some Visibility Has Diminished

Published: March 12, 2020

Data Center

Last week GAO released an evaluation of federal agency progress toward meeting Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI) goals. GAO concluded that agencies are making progress in meeting DCOI metrics and goals, but oversight and cybersecurity risks need addressing.

On an annual basis, GAO reviews progress on federal data center optimization and consolidation as part of FITARA legislative requirements.  GAO assessed data center progress and inventories as of August 2019 for the 24 agencies covered under DCOI. Since then, updated statistics have been published on the IT Dashboard which I summarized in a January blog post.

GAO reported as of August 2019, 23 of the 24 agencies had met or planned to meet, their FY 2019 closure goals, translating to the closure of 286 facilities. Agencies also reported plans to close at least 37 of the remaining data centers.

OMB updated their guidance for DCOI in June 2019, which revised the definition of a data center, resulting in the elimination of over 2,000 facilities from data center tracking requirements. GAO believes that the elimination of these facilities from DCOI tracking presents cybersecurity risks arising from the lack of continued visibility into these facilities.

According to GAO’s analysis, the 24 DCOI agencies reported a total of $4.7 billion in cost savings from FY 2012 through FY 2019. Twenty-three of the agencies had met or planned to meet, OMB’s FY 2019 savings goal of $241.5 million. Planned savings for FY 2020 total $264 million.  

All 24 agencies reported progress toward meeting metrics for virtualization, energy monitoring, and server utilization. However, GAO felt it could not reliably report on the new metric of “availability” due to variances in agency reporting. As of August 2019, eight agencies reported that they met all three targets for the metrics GAO reviewed, five met two targets, and six met one target.

GAO made the following recommendations to OMB:

  • OMB should require agencies to document annual data center closure goals in their DCOI strategic plans and track those goals on the IT Dashboard.
  • OMB should require agencies to report in their quarterly inventory submissions the facilities previously reported as data centers, even if those facilities are not subject to DCOI closure and optimization requirements.
  • OMB should document its decisions on whether to approve individual data centers when designated by agencies as either a mission-critical facility or as a facility not subject to DCOI.
  • OMB should take action to address the key performance measurement characteristics missing from the DCOI optimization metrics, as identified in GAO’s report, such as establishing appropriate performance parameters for each DCOI metric.

GAO also made the following recommendations to specific agencies:

  • Agriculture, Commerce and NASA – These agencies should take action to achieve their data center-related cost savings targets established under DCOI by OMB.
  • Commerce - Commerce should take action to meet its data center optimization metric targets established under DCOI by OMB.

Federal contractors should continue to see opportunities to assist agencies with data center consolidation and optimization efforts even though the official number of data centers has decreased. Opportunities exist in the areas of application rationalization, infrastructure modernization, cloud migration, and shared service migration.