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Fed Data Center Efforts Move To Execution Phase

Agencies should look to cloud computing and virtualization for quick gains, but overall success of data center consolidation will depend on execution, says effort's point man.

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The multi-year, federal government-wide data center consolidation initiative is shifting from planning to execution as federal agencies tie their finalized consolidation plans into larger budget plans due to the Office of Management and Budget this week and begin tackling easy data center consolidation wins, the effort's leader said last week.

In an InformationWeek Government Webcast, "Quick Wins in Data Center Consolidation," data center consolidation initiative leader and Department of Homeland Security CIO Richard Spires laid out the government's future plans and goals for the initiative, discussed what agencies should be doing now, and gave an update on DHS' own data center consolidation initiative.

Spires said he will be working closely with the Office of Management and Budget to help institute baseline plans for each agency by the end of the quarter, and then oversight of the effort will transition into a monitoring mode. As the initiative progresses, agencies will update their asset inventories and report their progress annually, and will be expected to update plans each year as well. "This is not something that's going to be completed in a year," Spires said, pointing to DHS' own effort to consolidate from 24 down to two data centers, which began three years ago and isn’t slated to be finished until 2014.

The recent departure of former data center consolidation co-leader and Treasury CIO Mike Duffy to join the Department of Justice has left Spires as the government's point person for the initiative, while OMB continues to play a major role. However, as agencies move from planning into execution, Spires also sees a new role for the federal CIO Council (the government's principal interagency IT forum, consisting of agency and bureau CIOs) to play.

Spires said he wants to stand up a CIO Council subcommittee as part of the council's best practices committee -- which Spires chairs -- that will focus on best practices of data center consolidation, providing among other things help and access to experts and IT managers who have consolidated in the past. "Planning is critical, but success all depends on the execution," he said.

Spires pointed to four primary goals of the data center initiative, including: promoting the use of green IT by reducing energy use and the government data center real estate footprint; reducing overall capital and operational data center costs; increasing the use of more efficient computing platforms and technologies; and increasing the overall IT security posture of government.

He said that OMB would make the call as to whether there will be any specific benchmarked objectives, wasn't able to discuss any as of now. OMB has been analyzing agencies' data center inventories and preliminary plans over the past several months.

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