Gov IT Execs Skeptical Of Data Center Consolidation - InformationWeek

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Gov IT Execs Skeptical Of Data Center Consolidation

Three-quarters say agencies won't meet the plan's objectives on schedule, and some doubt if the targeted consolidation will even happen.

The federal government is pushing for a broad consolidation of data centers across agencies, but a survey shows that federal IT executives have doubts about whether the plan as outlined by the Obama administration will ever materialize.

In a survey by government research firm MeriTalk, three out of four federal IT executives said that agencies won't achieve a data center consolidation plan outlined earlier this year by the Office of Management and Budget in the timeline indicated.

Moreover, 37% said they're not sure if there even will be a data center reduction, despite the OMB plan, with 86% citing the culture of government IT as the chief obstacle to enacting the plan. And 12% of those surveyed don't think data center consolidation will happen at all.

Specifically, stakeholders said they were unclear about how they will achieve objectives for consolidating data centers and if they can meet them in the timeline presented, according to the survey, called the 2010 Federal Data Center Demolition Derby.

The study -- for which MeriTalk spoke to 143 federal IT professionals and systems integrators in person in May -- was commissioned by storage and data-management vendor NetApp. It is available on MeriTalk's Web site.

In February, the OMB issued a Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (DCCI). A key goal was for agencies to update their asset inventory annually by the end of the third quarter of each fiscal year, staring in fiscal year 2011. They also are meant to report progress on executing their data center consolidation plans by the end of each fiscal year starting in 2011.

The White House followed that up with a memo earlier this month in which it put a moratorium on agencies opening any new data centers, and said they must examine the properties they already have and develop plans to consolidate them and reduce their number by 2015.

The Obama administration hopes to cut IT costs, reduce energy consumption, and improve IT security by reducing its data center footprint.

Despite doubts that some executives have about broad data center consolidation, 63% of those surveyed said they believe it will happen. What they are not sure of is when, according to the survey.

Seventy-four percent said they don't think agencies will achieve the objectives of OMB's plan by the third quarter of fiscal 2011. They also said that they aren't sure what their data center footprint is supposed to look like by the end of the consolidation, according to the survey.

The OMB has said there are 1,100 data centers in the federal government, not counting those in the military. However, according to the survey, federal IT executives aren't sure how many should still be standing post-consolidation. Thirteen percent said they think there should be 900; 17% said 700; 14% said 500; and 19% said 300, according to MeriTalk.

Both the OMB's plan and the White House mandate have said that agencies should consider cloud computing as a means for consolidating data centers. However, according to the MeriTalk survey, federal IT executives are unsure if cloud computing will be an enabler.

Fewer than half -- 45% -- said that the OMB's plans to use cloud computing to consolidate data centers is realistic, while 62% said it will take up to five years to move to cloud computing as a primary IT environment, according to the survey.

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