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Federal Data Center Optimization Initiative Progress, FY 2021

Published: December 08, 2021

Federal Market AnalysisData CenterInformation TechnologyPolicy and Legislation

Earlier this week, the IT Dashboard posted fourth quarter FY 2021 data center statistics, showing marginal continued progress shuttering, consolidating and realizing cost saving from federal data center efforts.

Since 2010, the federal government has made a concerted effort to consolidate and optimize data centers. In FY 2016, OMB launched the Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI). In June 2019, OMB updated the guidance for the initiative to more closely align it with FITARA objectives and refocus efforts on projects that drive the most cost savings and return on investment (ROI).

Over the years, OMB repeatedly extended data center consolidation and optimization deadlines, most recently to September 30, 2022.  The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 extended data center requirements through October 1, 2022. As a result, in November 2020, OMB released a memo extending DCOI requirements to September 30, 2022.

The IT Dashboard does not give definitions or explanations for the numbers presented. Instead, the data is left to user interpretation. The dashboard data shows that the “total” number of data centers has decreased over the last several years.  This is likely due to the change in definition of a data center precipitated by the DCOI guidance made final June 2019. Additionally, the guidance established Key Mission Facilities (KMF) allowing agencies more latitude in requesting exemption from consolidation requirements.

GAO and Congress have criticized OMB’s changes to DCOI, citing that the new definitions of data centers limit visibility into federal computing facilities. A March GAO report concluded that agencies are making progress in meeting DCOI metrics and goals, but visibility into approximately 4,500 former data centers has been diminished due to changes in the definition of a data center.  I would personally argue that the ability for agencies to classify data centers as KMFs, thereby making most exempt from DCOI goals, further limits visibility and progress towards the initiative’s goals.

The chart below is described by the IT Dashboard as data center closures for all facilities.  The dashboard notes that definitions changed and KMFs were added in Q4 FY 2018. We are also left to assume that “closed” must mean the cumulative number of data centers that have been closed over time and that the reason the number has gone up and down is due to the change in the definition of a data center.

The following chart shows the closures for valid tiered facilities.  According to June 2019 DCOI guidance, a valid tiered facility is a “purpose-built physically separate and dedicated space.” 

The IT Dashboard also gives cost savings statistics for data center optimization and closure efforts.  However, a note with the data says that “Data is incomplete for 2018 and later.” Cost savings data is shown below. If the data is accurate, agencies fell well short of cost savings goals in FY 2020, but rebounded in FY 2021 by exceeding cost savings goals.  

According to the data and the chart below, the number of cloud instances grew in FY 2021 and the number of virtual hosts also increased.  The number of servers declined and the percentage of virtual hosts to servers increased over 2 percent showing an increase in virtualization for federal data centers.

According to the data, the number of facilities with energy metering dropped by one facility in FY 2021, falling from 26.4% of facilities to 26.1%. The total number of facilities also stayed fairly even during this time period.

Although the DCOI effort has lost some momentum, federal contractors should 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.