White House Setting Data Center Consolidation Targets

An inventory finds that the government significantly underestimated the total number of federal data centers that will be affected by the reduction initiative.

J. Nicholas Hoover, Senior Editor, InformationWeek Government

October 12, 2010

3 Min Read

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The Obama administration plans to set hard targets for its government-wide data center consolidation initiative, including data center reduction plans for every federal agency, that will be part of the President's fiscal 2012 budget, according to a new White House memo that also shows federal officials have been vastly underestimating the total number of government data centers.

The memo, sent to government CIOs by federal CIO Vivek Kundra and Department of Homeland Security CIO Richard Spires (who is leading the initiative) on October 1, provides officials with broad strokes of the White House's near-term plans as well as some high-level results of a government-wide review that was carried out to provide the White House and agencies with baselines to help plot out next steps.

The multi-year effort, aimed at saving the government money, promoting energy efficient IT and improving cybersecurity, is in a transition phase from planning to execution, as agencies submitted their final data center asset inventories and data center consolidation plans to the Office of Management and Budget this summer. OMB is now working with agencies to review and tweak these plans, and will approve agency plans by the end of the year, the memo says.

Final agency plans will likely be deeply descriptive. For example, the General Services Administration has already said its plan will include targets and standards for using cloud computing where applicable, targets for data center reductions, and targets for data center efficiency via CPU utilization rates and overall energy consumption, among other metrics.

The data center inventory, now complete, has come up with some staggering numbers, according to some high-level figures included in the memo. While federal CIO Vivek Kundra has been estimating the number of federal data centers at about 1,100 in recent speeches, the inventory determined that there were almost double that number: 2,094 data centers in all. In counting data centers, the administration included "any room that is greater than 500 square feet and devoted to data processing" and meets one of the Uptime Institute's data center classification tier definitions.

The Department of Defense, which accounts for the largest chunk of federal spending on IT, had 772 data centers, by far the most of any federal agency. On its heels were the Department of State, which had 361 data centers in its globally dispersed organization, and the Department of the Interior, another highly decentralized organization that had 210 data centers.

Some of the other large federal agencies fared much better in the count. For example, despite the massive amount of data the Social Security Administration holds, it has only two data centers. The Department of Education, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Environmental Protection Agency are among the others with fewer than five data centers, while the Office of Personnel Management is the only cabinet-level agency that operates just one data center.

About the Author(s)

J. Nicholas Hoover

Senior Editor, InformationWeek Government

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