How to consolidate data centers effectively

Monday - 4/18/2011, 4:08pm EDT

Bob Otto, Executive Vice President, Agilex Technologies

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By John Buckner
Federal News Radio

The Obama administration plans to shut down 100 data centers this year and 700 more by 2015. Reducing the more than 2,000 data centers raises issues such as costs, job cuts and management of data with fewer facilities.

Bob Otto, executive vice president at Agilex Technologies, told Federal News Radio the administration's goal is attainable but agencies must handle the process in the right way. Otto has experience inside the federal community. He served as the chief information officer at the U.S. Postal Service before entering the contracting community.

"The truth is, how many data centers do we really have across the government?" Otto said. "The number of centers out there is probably not totally accurate because the inventories across all these agencies, that's a big task, to know where all your computing is and know what is really a data center and what isn't."

Otto said the government could have upwards of 4,000 data centers when taking into account all the remote processors and satellite data centers. He said costs are one hindrance to closing down data centers.

Richard Spires, chief information officer for the Department of Homeland Security says the cost of eliminating 41 data centers is about $600 million.

Otto suggested a series of steps for agencies to close data centers in a cost effective way.

"They ought to do this in stages," Otto said. "Go take the smaller sites and consolidate one or two of those and they are going to see immediate savings on things like software licensing and support and hardware refreshes they don't have to spend."

Otto said that once smaller sites have been consolidated and money has been saved, agencies can take that extra cash and put it towards closing a bigger site.

"You do not have to have money to start this effort," Otto said.

Moving to the cloud

The administration's 25-point plan has agencies on track to move one system to the cloud within the next year. However, Otto does not suggest agencies move to the cloud immediately.

"People mix consolidation of data centers with cloud computing and really, you [agencies] should start with consolidation and then standardization," Otto said. "Then you do your virtualization and then you automate."

Otto said once agencies have done this and can see the saved costs, then they can outsource to the cloud.

Job Cuts and Concerns

With pay freezes and budget cuts across the government, closing data centers could sound like job cuts for employees. However, Otto said while consolidation and technology advancements require less people to operate the facilities, there doesn't have to be job cuts.

Otto said USPS consolidated a computer center and development center, which freed up jobs rather than eliminating them.

"When you do close a facility, you will find people who will retire, people who will move on, people who will move with the work and people who will want to be retrained," Otto said.

John Buckner is an intern with Federal News Radio.

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