Is data center consolidation worth the bother?

The deadline is approaching for agencies to submit their data center consolidation plans, and Federal CIO Vivek Kundra is playing it up. In a Federal Computer Week article by Rutrell Yasin, Kundra said that when the plans are published on Oct. 7, people will see that the reports are the "golden source of data around cost savings, around every data center that agencies own [and] a very specific road map for which data centers will be shut down by 2015."

However, not everyone is as enthusiastic as Kundra. Derrick Harris, writing at GigaOM, reports that data center consolidation might not be easy.

Harris’ article, like many others on the topic, is pegged to a MeriTalk survey that revealed widespread skepticism among federal IT managers about the value or feasibility of consolidation. But Harris learned from a Juniper Networks representative that one perceived problem is the proliferation of custom-coded applications in the federal data center infrastructure. The presence of such apps makes consolidating data centers impractical until some apps are rewritten or replaced with standard ones, the Juniper rep told Harris.

But other information has emerged that could validate Kundra's plans. A critical reason to consolidate data centers is to reduce power consumption, based on the relatively obvious principle that fewer servers in fewer buildings require less electricity.

Damon Poeter, writing at PCMag.com, reports that the growth of data center power consumption has been far less than experts believed it would be. Power consumption by data centers worldwide doubled from 2000 to 2005 but grew by only 56 percent from 2005 to 2010, according to a study by Jonathan Koomey, an associate professor at Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment.

Koomey cited several reasons why the growth in power consumption has slowed. They include data center consolidation and increased use of server virtualization, which would seem to suggest that the Obama administration is on the right track.

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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