DoD needs to consolidate data centers to become more efficient

Friday - 7/20/2012, 6:01am EDT

By Taeja Smith
Special to Federal News Radio

As the largest owner of data centers, the Department of Defense faces a daunting challenge in implementing the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative. DoD must find new ways to curb energy cost and satisfy its ever growing needs for data center services, according to a new report by the Congressional Research Service.

Data center consolidation is an increasing trend across the government. Even with this initiative, new data centers are built after less than 10 percent of current servers are filled.

Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel

The Department of Defense accumulated 772 data centers because of these challenges. The department plans to reduce by 30 percent the number of data centers and the number of servers by 25 percent by 2013. This would reduce its total number of data centers to about 532.

DoD wants to use cloud computing services as part of its data center and server consolidation and money-savings efforts. For example, the Defense Information Systems Agency reportedly reduced its Defense Enterprise Computing Centers from 50 to 14 on military bases. DISA capped its data center growth in 2010 after four years of consolidation efforts.

Federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel announced a goal to close more than 1,200 of the 3,133 data centers across the government. He said shutting this many data centers would save the government more than $3 billion by 2015.

The Office of Management and Budget has said agencies would incur upfront costs such as moving or replacing hardware and upgrading facilities and equipment. The administration expects agencies to pay for the consolidation costs through the savings achieved by closing the centers.

CRS found DoD's data center growth came about for two reasons. The first is data-center management has primarily focused on service and reliability in response to demand.

"This can reduce the priority of efforts to improve energy efficiency and cost savings," stated the report, which was first obtained by the Federation of American Scientists.

Secondly, DoD separated the financial decisions from operational responsibilities. CRS said that was a major reason why DoD saw the large growth in data centers.

CRS recommended to Congress that it hold hearings to ensure OMB and agencies are managing the data center consolidation initiative appropriately. Researchers also say lawmakers should review consolidation plans and status reports for individual agencies or have the Government Accountability Office do so.

"Finally Congress may wish to examine the current 'reach' of the [data center consolidation initiative] and consider whether expanding the initiative to include other agencies, as the GAO has recommended, is appropriate," the report stated.

Taeja Smith is an intern with Federal News Radio.

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