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Federal IT Pros Question Data Center Consolidation Benefits

Closing government data centers will increase complexity and could reduce cost savings agencies expect to achieve, according to a survey of federal IT pros.

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The complexity of the federal government's data center consolidation effort may undermine some of the cost savings and efficiencies the government expects to achieve by it, a recent study found.

Consolidating data centers as part of a broad plan the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is overseeing is proving more complex than anticipated, according to a study by MeriTalk commissioned by Juniper Networks. MeriTalk surveyed more than 200 federal IT professionals for the study, who--in a scenario MeriTalk deemed the "consolidation conundrum"--reported that the complexity of consolidating facilities could be more trouble than the savings achieved from the effort is worth.

One key problem the study brings to light is that the federal consolidation plan doesn't seem take into consideration the fact that agencies' need for compute capacity will actually increase over the next several years. Those polled estimated that their computing needs will increase by 37% over the next five years, and that data centers should actually be scaled up by 34% to meet these needs, according to the survey.

The problem is that while data centers will shrink in number, they will grow in terms of the space they need to hold the systems required for compute capacity, according to the survey. This will increase the complexity of facilities, making them unwieldy and harder to manage and in the long run costing agencies money and efficiency that the feds hoped to save by the effort, according to those surveyed.

Survey respondents also noted other specific challenges they're experiencing as they consolidate data centers, including training staff on new technology, security funding for new investments, complying with security policies, and avoiding disruptions in application performance.

The MeriTalk study also makes a point that conflicts with what government officials have revealed in terms of agencies' ability to meet the data center closure goals set out by the OMB. The OMB expects to close 800 or more data centers by 2015; however, according to MeriTalk, the majority of federal IT professionals don't think this is possible.

According to the study, only 10% of those surveyed believe they will meet this goal, and 23% actually believe the government will have more data centers in 2015 than now.

However, less than two weeks ago federal officials said agencies are ahead of schedule their facility closure goals. This year they expect to close 195 data centers as opposed to the 137 they'd targeted for elimination earlier in the year. And next year the government expects to close 178 data centers.

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