Consolidation

Data center savings hard to track

data center cages

While the effort to consolidate data centers is proceeding with some success, significant challenges are impeding progress. (Stock image)

While agencies are closely tracking data center closings, confusion clearly lingers over expected cost savings and why consolidation is not happening faster under the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative.

“Ultimately, it’s about getting to the point where we’re saving money, and that’s where there hasn’t been a lot of transparency at the moment in data center consolidation,” David Powner, director of IT management issues at the Government Accountability Office, told FCW.

Powner was one of several federal officials, including federal CIO Steven VanRoekel, who testified at a Jan. 22 hearing before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, responding to lawmakers on the merits of data center consolidation.

In responding to a question from Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.),  VanRoekel said that while it would be ideal if agencies were moving rapidly to the cloud, capital expenditures are too high for some agencies to do so on a large scale. Instead they save money over time by getting rid of the “low-hanging fruit” and investing those savings for the gradual optimization of systems.

Resource

Interactive map: Data center closures by the numbers

But tracking savings is difficult, Powner said, because most agencies have not reported asset inventories, data on network infrastructure savings or power use information – all things vital to predicting cost savings.

The only agency to come forward publicly with projected savings from data center consolidation is the Defense Department, Powner said, which has closed 114 data centers since 2010.

The agency now projects a $2.2 billion savings due to its data center consolidation, an enormous portion of the $3 billion to $5 billion the Office of Management and budget estimated FDCCI would save governmentwide by 2015.

Powner said if the DOD alone estimates $2.2 billion in savings from closing and consolidating data centers, “you’d think there would be more savings out there” for other agencies, though exactly how much remains unclear.

“There is certainly the potential for expected savings to grow,” Powner said.

About the Author

Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.

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Reader comments

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 IT Dude

In direct coordination to calculating savings, one factor towards those calculations should be the productivity of the customers those systems support. A generic rule of thumb is, "a computer system and/or program should be designed to minimize repetition for the customer, and free them up to be more productive in putting out more product". While I agree with consolidation of data centers, I sometimes fear the idea is a little bit overboard. If you centralize too much, yes, you can save a lot on equipment. But you might also cost the customer you support a great deal of productivity. If a customer is running a report and with his current site it only takes him 20 minutes to run it, then his system gets centralized to a completely different location, with bandwidth delays, that report very often increases 2 to 3 fold, putting that report now at 40-60 minutes (and often times even longer than that) to run. Yes, we saved in IT resources but we just killed the productivity of those whom the systems support. A well thought out balance should be considered, and all costs should be factored.

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