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Feds Expand Data Center Consolidation Plans

White House says the expanded effort will close more data centers and save taxpayers more money.

The federal government is increasing the scope of its data center consolidation initiative, which will lead to more data center closures and increased savings, federal CIO Steven Van Roekel said Thursday on a call with reporters.

The government had anticipated closing about 800 data centers by 2015, with an estimated savings of $3 billion over the long term. However, now, the government is on track to close 962 data centers by 2015, and the administration has bumped its estimated savings to more than $5 billion over the long term. "We're taking bolder steps," Van Roekel said.

The 962 number is likely to grow, as the Obama administration will broaden the scope of data centers it looks to consolidate from just those larger than 500 square feet to include wiring closets and those data centers that are larger than 100 square feet. Due to the wider scope, which redefines what the government considers a data center, the number of data centers in the federal government will actually increase from the current 2,094 to something more like 2,800, Van Roekel said.

It's unclear if the larger savings numbers take into consideration the additional closure of those smaller data centers and wiring closets. The administration now estimates $630 million in savings through 2015, with more than $5 billion in savings over the longer term as capital expenses on the consolidation itself drop significantly.

[The cost saving projections sound impressive, but learn why Federal IT Pros Question Data Center Consolidation Benefits.]

The data center consolidation initiative is by some measures moving ahead of progress. Earlier this year, then federal CIO Vivek Kundra announced an increase in the number of data centers to be closed by the end of the calendar year. Thursday, Van Roekel announced that instead of closing 373 data centers by the end of 2012 as expected, the government will now close 472 in that same timespan. The Obama administration plans to release more details on agency plans Friday.

In addition to the increased scope of the data center consolidation initiative, the administration will also launch a new cost model to allow CIOs to compare their efforts with those of other agencies. "This will give CIOs the ability to compare, 'are we really doing the right thing, are we moving in the right direction,'" Van Roekel said.

Funding remains a question mark for the data center consolidation initiative. Agency budgets expect some belt tightening, and Congress has slashed the Office of Management and Budget's e-government fund, out of which the data center consolidation initiative has been managed. Van Roekel said that he'd been working with members of Congress "to make sure they understand the importance of the fund."

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