OMB taking a deeper look at data centers

Friday - 2/26/2010, 2:15pm EST

WFED's Jason Miller explains on the Federal Drive

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By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

The Office of Management and Budget will ask agencies to conduct their second survey of data centers in the last nine months, but this one will have an eye toward major consolidation.

Federal chief information officer Vivek Kundra signed a memo today requiring every department to take a deeper dive into their data centers focusing on routers, switches and servers.

"We want to set a clear path and that is one of the reasons I've charged Richard Spires of the Homeland Security Department and Mike Duffy at the Department of Treasury to lead the data center consolidation within the CIO Council," Kundra says at a panel discussion sponsored by AFCEA Bethesda, Md. "What's going to happen in the next eight months, we are going forward with a very detailed inventory of every single data center in the U.S. government. Not an just at an abstract level, but actually getting into the number of racks, servers, routers, switches and utilization of those servers. We are going through a very exhaustive process of making sure we've got a clear image of current state."

The memo gives agencies four deadlines over the next six months.

By April 30, agencies must complete an initial inventory of the hardware at their data centers. Then by June 30, agencies must develop an initial consolidation plan that identifies "potential areas for consolidation, areas where optimization through server virtualization or cloud computing alternatives may be used and a high-level roadmap for transitioning to the consolidated end-state architecture."

A month after that, agencies must finalize their inventories and by Aug. 30, they must complete their consolidation plans and include them in their fiscal 2012 budget request.

"These plans must be approved by OMB by Dec. 31," the memo states. "The final plans will include a technical roadmap and approach for achieving the targets for infrastructure utilization, energy efficiency and cost efficiency."

Kundra writes that OMB will monitor agency progress on consolidating data centers through quarterly updates starting in 2011 as well as annual inventory updates.

OMB conducted an initial survey of agency data centers last summer and found the number of these entities increased across government to more than 1,100 in 2009 from about 432 in 1998. Read Federal News Radio's initial coverage of this survey by clicking here.

The first survey looked at several key areas:

  • Facility location,
  • Whether the data center activity is co-located with other mission execution activities or stand-alone,
  • Square footage allocated,
  • Legal ownership interest,
  • Energy consumption,
  • Data center utilization
  • Cost related information

OMB also tried to consolidate data centers in 1995, asking agencies for an inventory and strategy. The Clinton administration's goal was to reduce the number of data centers by 1998.

Kundra says the memo will offer a new template to get into more details.

"It is fairly far along in the planning phase and now it's about collecting the data," he says. "It will take significant amount of time, as much as six months. We want to get down to the server level."

He adds that part of the goal is to validate the initial survey.

"We want to figure out how big is this problem and how our strategy should evolve based on optimizing in terms of in some data centers looking virtualization or asking why we have three data centers instead of one," he says. "We are very early in terms of execution."

Kundra adds that the government is spending $19 billion on infrastructure and agencies are using only 15-to-20 percent of the capacity of many data centers.

"Agencies are working on a detailed plan at the department level," he says. "I'll be working with each department, especially as we formulate the 2012 budget in terms of looking at what can we optimize and consolidate where it makes sense to rationalize these investments."

A major part of this effort will be how agencies can use cloud computing to consolidate data centers, Kundra says. OMB in the budget passback told agencies to justify not using cloud computing for major IT investments.

Several agencies already are going down this path. DHS, for example, is consolidating 24 data centers to two, and the Army is moving to commercial data centers for some of their needs.

Van Hitch, the Justice Department CIO, says he knows the data call will be a lot of work, but he welcomes the help from OMB.

"The culture of the government, not for IT sake, but it's like a notch in your belt, have you got a chief of staff? Have you got a data center?" he says. "It's like an ownership thing and we need to get rid of that. We can't afford that. Working with the CIO Council and Vivek on this issue, it will take all of us working hard on this to make a dent on this problem."

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