OMB charts a new course in data center program

With the consolidation initiative now part of PortfolioStat, officials are rethinking its objectives.

NASA data center

OMB will focus on data center optimization across the federal government rather than closures. (NASA photo)

Like snowflakes or human fingerprints, no two data centers are the same, so the Office of Management and Budget is not going to treat them as such anymore.

When OMB launched the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative in 2010, the agency's stated goal was to close 40 percent -- or about 1,200 -- of the federal government's 2,900 data centers by 2015.

That target is still part of the plan, said Scott Renda, OMB's cloud computing and FDCCI portfolio manager, but OMB's approach to the initiative has changed because it has been rolled into PortfolioStat, a separate federal initiative.

Speaking at a Northern Virginia Technology Council briefing at the Ritz-Carlton in McLean, Va., Renda said OMB will focus on data center optimization across the federal government rather than closures. Thus far, 484 data centers have closed, with another 844 slated to close by the end of fiscal 2013.

Although OMB's leadership and lack of metrics in FDCCI have come under fire from the Government Accountability Office, Renda said the agency wants to "optimize enterprise computer power" across a variety of indicators, beginning with the categorization of data centers as core or non-core. Treating all data centers alike makes little sense when some can fit in a storage closet and some take up entire floors of office buildings.

That categorization process will begin this summer with the second round of PortfolioStat sessions. The optimization will also include examining costs associated with data center ownership, including storage, labor, hardware and software, and energy. That information should provide a more holistic description of each data center.

Applications, too, will have to be inventoried and relocated as data centers are consolidated, and that process is often hindered by data ownership challenges among existing agency personnel and factions. Although savings from FDCCI remain unclear, the initiative continues with new goals and apparently new ways to achieve those goals.

"Data center consolidation is a means to an end but not the end itself," Renda said.

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