Federal Data Center Consolidation or Conundrum?

Published: June 26, 2013

Data Center

Over three years into the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI) and there still is no official count of data centers, publically available end-state goals by agency, or well-established method for measuring savings.

First there were roughly 2,100 data centers.  Then there were 3,000. Now there are 6,000.  Are data centers wildly multiplying?  I think it’s safe to say that they are not.  However, the definition of a data center is a moving target, which makes it impossible to count them or to establish reduction goals related to the actual number of data centers.

Additionally, the focus of FDCCI has shifted to data center optimization versus data center closures or reductions, and it has moved to the PortfolioStat program for continued monitoring and reporting.

The original goal of FDCCI was to accomplish the following:

  • Promote the use of Green IT by lowering 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 technologies
  • Increase the overall IT security posture of the government

In that sense, the number of data centers and the number of data center closures are irrelevant except as they relate to the real estate footprint. Optimization efforts still meet the intent of the initiative and the spirit of OMB’s original mandates.

Historically, federal data center consolidation initiatives have only garnered minor success.  Under the Clinton administration in 1995, OMB embarked on another data center consolidation effort with the goal of reducing the government’s 200 data centers to only 50, with projected savings in operational costs of 30-50%.  Treasury, DISA and a few other agencies made progress, but the total number of federal data centers actually skyrocketed between 1998 and 2010. 

Agencies still face a number of obstacles and challenges today as they implement data center consolidation, such as:

  • An unrealistic timeline 
  • Technical obstacles 
  • Lack of funding  
  • Cultural and political challenges

Even so, agencies are plugging away at consolidation efforts and achieving some success.  But in my opinion, FDCCI would reach its goals more rapidly if requirements were clearly established for determining the number of data centers, measuring savings, and reaching clear end-state goals for each agency.