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Expanding our Efforts on Data Centers

Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel provides an update on the Administration's efforts to close and consolidate duplicative data centers.

The President has been clear that every Federal dollar spent must generate a positive return for the American people and that as we tackle our long term fiscal challenges, we must root out waste in government. One area that we know we can do better in is with the thousands of duplicative data centers that sprung up across the last decade. These data centers – some as big as a football field, others as small as a closet –  represent billions in wasted capital that could be better used to improve upon critical services for American taxpayers.By closing data centers, agencies are on track to save taxpayers billions of dollars by cutting spending on wasteful, underutilized hardware, software and operations as well as enhance our cybersecurity; shrink our energy and real estate footprints; and take advantage of transformational technologies like cloud computing to make government work better for our nation’s families. 

Last year, we set an ambitious target of closing 800 data centers by the end of 2015. After a year of agencies working hard to develop plans and targets, we are not only on track – but exceeding that goal: 

  • Agencies plan to close 215 data centers in 2011;
  • Agencies plan to close 525 data centers by the end of 2012;
  • Agencies plan to close 1,080 data centers by the end of 2015.

Rather than put up our feet and call it a success that we’re on track to close 25% more data centers than our goal, we’ve decided to move the goalposts and shoot even higher. That’s why I announced earlier this fall that the Administration is expanding the data center consolidation initiative to include data centers of any size, rather than just those 500 square feet and above.  And as we expand the initiative we are also expanding our goal.

Moving forward, the government’s goal will be to close at least 40% of identified data centers, consistent with our original consolidation goal.  That means we’ll be looking to consolidate at least 1200 data centers by the end of 2015 – a goal that requires us to continue aggressively rooting out duplication and waste in our expanded baseline of 3,133 data centers.

While we continue to rack up closures and focus on consolidation opportunities to maximize savings, it’s equally important to focus on the efficiencies of the data centers that remain in our inventory. These data centers, which will take on additional work as we consolidate, will become the centerpieces of service delivery to American taxpayers.  That is why the interagency group leading the effort has begun to focus on the efficiencies of the data centers we keep.  We need to ensure we are delivering better service to the American people for less.  Accordingly, agencies will focus on computing power and density instead of capacity, taking advantage of current technologies that deliver more bang for the buck.

Agencies are already reaping the savings and service improvements as a result of consolidating brick and mortar data centers and shifting to the cloud.  By consolidating two of its major data centers this past year, the Census Bureau was able to close a contractor-operated 6,570 square foot facility.   The Census Bureau will avoid $1.7 million in annual operating costs starting in 2012.  Simultaneously, Census is busy enhancing its remaining facilities and now hosts data center services for the International Trade Administration (ITA), another part of the Department of Commerce, and offers co-location and hosting services to extend opportunities for efficiencies to other government agencies.  When combined with robust uses of virtualization and cloud technologies, Census has reduced the data center power consumption of all its data centers by 10 percent.

These steps are only the beginning. Over the next year, more and more agencies will begin to follow the Census Bureau’s lead and realize data center savings. As they do, we will keep you posted about their progress in helping forge the efficient, effective government the American people expect and deserve.

Steven VanRoekel is the Federal Chief Information Officer