Data center survey contains concerns, optimism

Tuesday - 6/22/2010, 9:32am EDT

Mark Weber, president, U.S. Federal at NetApp

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By Dorothy Ramienski
Internet Editor
Federal News Radio

Data centers seem to perpetually grow and expand in the federal government.

Earlier this month, the order came down from the White House: Consolidate or otherwise reduce the number of federal data centers by half, and use more cloud computing.

But can agencies realistically achieve this goal?

The 2010 Federal Data Center Demolition Derby is a new survey from Meritalk and NetApp and shows there are concerns.

Mark Weber is president of U.S. Federal for NetApp and explained that the survey was conducted at a live event. About 65 percent of respondents were federal employees, and the remaining 35 percent were systems integrators.

"There was some pessimism on the timelines. They've got some aggressive goals. 3 out of four people said, 'Boy, those timelines aren't going to get met'. [There was] lots of discussion and dispute over how many data centers there should be. Right now the number is 1,100 -- how many should they consolidate down to?"

It wasn't all negative, however.

"[There was] a fair amount of optimism about the cloud and about going to the cloud. Also, probably one of the most interesting findings was -- 'Why can't you consolidate? What is going to be the block?' The number one [response] by far was culture. It wasn't technology. It wasn't security. It was the culture of changing to fewer data centers."

That might prove to be a formidable speed bump, but there is something else to consider.

Weber says that, despite what federal managers and those in the private sector think, government leadership has made it clear that it knows what it wants.

"You see certain agencies that have strong, strong leadership that are doing this [and] have already done it. So, yes, it's a cultural thing, but I think it comes down to strong leadership."

Another issue that was clear according to the survey results was that most people support the consolidation overall. The challenges and concerns emerged when specifics came into play.

"Who's going to get consolidated? . . . . One of the other findings out of this survey was -- were people willing to give other agencies their equipment to run? Well over 50 percent said yes. And well over 50 percent of people said they were willing to give the private sector some of their equipment to run."

Those surveyed are also feeling optimistic about the fact that money will be saved. Questions on the survey had to do with energy, operations, personnel, hardware and software and real estate.

"People agreed that's where the savings [are]. The primary ones were energy and operations. So, not too far off from why you would consolidate -- [if you have] fewer things running, you're going to save floor space and energy."

Learn more about cloud in the federal space at the Fed Cloud Blog.