Snapshot: Virtualization

Virtualization Helps Agencies Reach IT Goals

When federal CIO Vivek Kundra first introduced the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI) in 2010, it was greeted with equal parts enthusiasm, puzzlement and denial. Since then, it’s fair to say the program has had only moderate success whittling down the number of federal data centers. What’s not in doubt, though, is the influence the technology involved.

A 2014 survey of government IT professionals by 1105 Public Sector Media Group showed how deep the virtualization push has extended. Some 54 percent of respondents said their agency had already deployed a server virtualization initiative. Another 23 percent said their agency planned to do so by the end of 2015. Others reported actively investigating such deployments, and only seven percent of respondents said their agencies had no plans for server virtualization.

Desktop virtualization showed a similar level of support. Only nine percent of the survey respondents said their agencies had no plans. Simplified management of the increasingly complex government IT infrastructure, data storage challenges, lower operating and capital costs and more rapid deployment of IT resources were all given as reasons agencies were considering virtualized solutions.

In a 2015 study of organizations worldwide, market researcher IDC found clear evidence that besides the cost benefits of server virtualization, organizations with the highest level of virtualization —61 percent or more physical servers running virtual machines —were also noticeably faster in deploying new services and applications, deploying new equipment and responding to unexpected changes.

“With more significant time savings in these business-focused areas, organizations establish more efficient operations that scale better and are more agile, ” the IDC report stated. “As a result, they achieve higher productivity levels from key employees and ultimately improve their overall business operations.”

Even as the FDCCI has sputtered at times, it still showed the power of virtualization. Of the 24 agencies the Government Accountability Office surveyed for its 2014 status report to Congress on the FDCCI, three agencies stood out in terms of their results from data center closures and consolidation. The DOD posted $135.6 million in total cost savings and avoidances for the first three years. The Department of Homeland Security reported $136.3 million in savings and the Treasury Department a whopping $577.7 million.

Together, those three agencies accounted for more than 74 percent of the total savings by all agencies surveyed. The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) is leading the DOD’s virtualization efforts. It was one of the first government organizations to commit to a detailed data center virtualization program.

Since then, it’s expanded its ideas to encompass other kinds of virtualization. In July 2015, it published a request for information for methods and techniques needed “to create a virtual hardware platform, operating system, storage device or network resources” in support of a DOD virtualization platform. That RFI could eventually lead to a five-year, single-source IDIQ contract to supply virtualization technologies to the DOD.

NASA is another agency that has decided to employ virtualization throughout the organization, not only through basic server consolidation but extensive use of desktop virtualization. NASA regularly uses virtualization in high profile missions to help reduce costs, provide extra capacity to quickly meet ongoing mission demands and provide system backup as needed.

With budgets pressures increasing, agencies are looking for anything that can help them maintain mission capabilities. As virtualization technologies continue to prove their worth in providing cost savings, boosting performance and operating efficiencies, they are increasingly showing themselves to be an essential technology to help agencies meet their IT goals.