GAO: Agencies could push harder on data center closing

Federal agencies are finding success with data center consolidation, but GAO finds some complications.

Google data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa
 

Federal agencies have closed thousands of their inefficient, costly and unneeded data centers since a governmentwide initiative began, but the Government Accountability Office found there are still missed savings as well as competing policies on the closures.

Federal agencies have shut down 6,250 centers since the Office of Management and Budget launched a push to close or combine them. That's about half of the 12,000 data centers reported to OMB.

However, a recent GAO report also shows another 4,700 data centers across agencies aren't planned for closure, and another 1,200 planned to close, but remain open.

The agency noted the split, saying "while about half of the agencies had met, or had planned to meet, their OMB targets as of August 2018, the other half planned to miss one or both of them."

The report covered Data Center Optimization Initiative implementation through fiscal 2018.

The report said of the 24 agencies participating in the DCOI, only 13 said they had met, or planned to meet all OMB's closure goals. Eleven said they did not have plans to meet the goals. Additionally, it said 16 agencies as of last August, had met, or planned to meet, closure cost-savings goals that would total over $2 billion for fiscal years 2016 through 2018.

The report noted some of the agencies that have had successfully consolidated data centers also have strong cloud and shared services programs. It said the top IT management at the Commerce Department, the General Services Administration and the Social Security Administration all underlined the importance of moving data center assets and systems to cloud services to optimize operations and reduce costs.

As a result of GSA's emphasis on cloud and shared services in 2018, the report said it had closed 118 data centers as of last August.

Despite the successes, some agencies still lag, according to the report. It said a $2.7 billion shortfall in cost savings goals between fiscal 2016 and 2018 is because five agencies came up short in cost savings and cost avoidances during the period.  Three agencies, it said, didn’t have cost-savings targets and didn’t report any savings during the period.

The GAO made 36 recommendations to the 24 agencies in its report, primarily to meet the OMB's closure and savings targets.

In written comments, the Department of Homeland Security said some of its data centers are exempt from OMB's original DCOI order because of changes OMB made to the closure guidance last November. Those changes recognized that agencies have been successful in going after the "low-hanging fruit," but they needed some budget controls to push them to look to the cloud, shared services and third party co-location for application and data hosting.

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