Feds Can't Track Value Of Data Center Consolidation

Facing a mandate to consolidate data centers, many government IT staffs don't even have standard metrics to prove efficiency, survey says.
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Despite a federal mandate to consolidate data centers, many government IT professionals don't see the point, mainly due to an inability to use metrics to gauge how valuable data-center consolidation can be, according to a new survey.

Less than half of federal respondents, or 42%, agreed with the idea that their IT department has an incentive to achieve data-center savings, including savings that will be realized by budgets other than IT, according to a new survey conducted by MeriTalk.

The problem lies in the lack of agency metrics for determining data-center efficiency, which makes federal IT professionals unable to judge the overall benefit of consolidation, the survey found.

MeriTalk conducted the study--"Measure to Manage II--Consolidation Crash Course Study"--by polling 157 respondents in April and May on behalf of NetApp, a storage and systems software vendor.

Of the respondents, 65% were federal civilian IT professionals, 26% were Department of Defense or intelligence-agency IT professionals; and 9% were systems integrators.

Federal agencies either aren't sufficiently tracking metrics for data-center efficiency, or they are not measuring the same things and aren't on the same page about it, according to the survey.

Overall, energy consumes 12% of a typical data center budget. However, 77% of respondents said they don't know the power use effectiveness across their data centers.

Moreover, the survey also found that while there are standards to track various elements of storage efficiency--such as capacity consumption, capacity allocation, incident metrics, provisioning time, and media ratios--agencies largely aren't using them.

Less than half track capacity consumption and allocation--41% of respondents said they are tracking capacity consumption, while 40% track capacity allocation. Even fewer than that track incident metrics (27%); provisioning time (19%); or media ratios (10%). And 24% of respondents said they don't track storage efficiency at all.

There also appears to be a big discrepancy in what metrics agencies are tracking to identify cost savings from data-center consolidation, the survey found.

Respondents listed 14 separate metrics for costs savings, and said they were tracking them to a varied degree. Even the two metrics with the highest number of respondents tracking them--annual hardware spending and physical server count--had less than half of those surveyed doing so, at 43% and 41%, respectively.

Other metrics government IT professionals are tracking include total operations/maintenance costs (34%); annual storage spending (32%); annual software spending (31%); energy consumption (26%); and storage capacity available (21%). Additionally, 17% of respondents said they were tracking energy spending and network bandwidth; and 12% said they were keeping track of square footage utilized, computing capacity utilized, and computing capacity available to measure cost savings.

The federal government is currently in the middle of a broad consolidation effort spearheaded by outgoing U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra. This year alone agencies will close 137 data centers--39 of which have already been shuttered—on their way to a goal of closing 400 by the end of 2015.

However, it's uncertain how these and other efforts started by Kundra will fare after he leaves for a fellowship at Harvard University in August. Some fear there's not enough leadership in place beneath Kundra to continue what he started, while others think the momentum behind them will carry them forward.

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