recommended reading

Data center consolidation is about more than real estate

Consolidating federal data centers should be about more than just renting out floor space, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Chief Technology Officer Noah Nason told a group of federal information technology executives and vendors Tuesday.

Agencies that have excess data center capacity, like ATF, could provide hardware, operating systems and even software as a service to agencies seeking such capacity, Nason said during a panel discussion sponsored by MeriTalk, a government IT industry group, and Juniper Networks, an IT vendor.

Software as a service is a sales model that allows agencies to pay for software based on the amount they use.

Agencies able to provide that higher level of service will be more likely to see significant cost savings, which they can plow back into other operations, Nason said. Before that can happen, though, data center managers have to figure out what services they're equipped to provide and how best to market them.

ATF has two data centers, Nason said, one of them federally-owned and the other managed by a private vendor.

By implementing more efficient practices and relying on server virtualization, ATF managers have opened up about 40 percent of the floor space in the agency's federally-owned center, he said, but they've had a tough time figuring out how to best market that space to another federal customer.

"We don't have the training to do that; we don't have the processes to do that and we don't have the experience," he said.

Federal IT officials plan to shut down or consolidate about 800 of the government's 2,100 data centers by 2015 -- a process expected to save the government $3 billion over five years. Officials anticipate saving an additional $5 billion annually by transferring federal data to more nimble cloud computing.

Some cost savings from data center consolidation are difficult to fully realize without a significant amount of work on the front end, Nason said.

For instance, compact servers require more air conditioning to stay cool, which means consolidating data centers doesn't automatically lead to a proportionate decrease in energy costs, he said.

Agencies can increase savings from consolidation by adopting green IT practices, he said, such as pumping air conditioning directly into server racks, so less cool air dissipates in empty parts of the data center.

The greatest roadblock to data center consolidation is a fear by some agencies that other agencies won't keep their data secure, Nason said.

That fear should be allayed in part by FedRAMP, a plan to create standard governmentwide requirements for cloud-based services so vendors have to be certified only once, said Ron Ross, with the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

A draft version of FedRAMP ran into criticism from vendors who complained it didn't pay enough heed to the diversity of security and computing requirements across agencies. A revised version of the program should be out within the next few months, Ross said during Tuesday's panel discussion.

Nason recommended providing incentives for IT officials to find innovative ways to consolidate federal data, such as offering 30 extra vacation days officials could carry from job to job, with extra vacation days to distribute among subordinates who worked on the project. Nason has pitched that idea to the Office of Personnel Management, he said, but so far it hasn't taken off.

Tuesday's event, titled "Fabric of the Future: Supporting the Federal Data Center Revolution," followed a survey conducted by Juniper and MeriTalk in July. That survey found only 10 percent of federal IT managers are confident the government will meet its data center consolidation goals.

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.