Just what is a 'data center,' anyway?

The Conversation: FCW's reporters and editors respond to your comments.

Kirit Amin

Kirit Amin, deputy CIO and chief technology officer at the Commerce Department, says data center consolidation is 'a tall order for us.'

On our story "Challenge and opportunity await in data center consolidation" piece, an anonymous reader commented: There seem to be multiple definitions of what a data center is. If you think really small, then our group had a data center that was a few small servers. For us, consolidation consisted of moving the servers to the main computer room on our campus and having them managed by the IT group. This required a major change in mindset since we had to give up direct control of our equipment, but after much discussion (argument), [we] felt that it would be to our benefit. This has worked out well for us since the IT group does a much better job than we could ever hope to do. So you might say that our small "data center" is closed even though that was not our primary goal, and we accidentally found ourselves ahead of the "closing" curve. I wish good luck and success to all who find themselves it this situation.

Frank Konkel responds: Your comment echoes similar sentiments from many feds at the forefront of data center consolidation. In November, I wrote a piece based on comments made by Mark Forman, formerly of the Office of Manage and Budget, (click here to read our article), who argued that "it is hard to convince agencies that own the systems and applications that performance will not suffer under consolidation."

In your case, it seems your data center equipment was better managed by the agency’s IT staff, despite the aforementioned conflict that occurred prior to its relocation. It can be a tricky situation, and "giving up" control over a server of application or even a virtual environment can be a very difficult thing to do. In addition, I completely agree with you about your statements regarding the definition of data centers.

Even federal agencies have differed in their opinions on what exactly constitutes a data center – some believe any old server laying around represents a data center, others feel proper metrics should define a data center by physical size (IE: 4 feet by 2 feet). More guidance on that subject may come as agencies present initial progress updates on their data center consolidation updates, which will now be unveiled in the next PortfolioStat update, expected soon.

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