Impact of data center closures unclear

Three weeks after the White House announced a plan to close 137 federal data centers, details on the extent of the move remain unclear.

Nearly three weeks after the White House announced the first round of 137 federal data center closures -- part of a massive cost and energy-savings program -- it's far from clear how much physical space and computer space will actually be eliminated and how many jobs might be cut.

The 23 data centers that the State, Veterans Affairs, Agriculture and Energy departments plan to have closed by 2012 take up about 44,000 square feet, according to agency emails to Nextgov. For the sake of perspective, that's real estate equal to about 18 standard family homes, according to the National Association of Home Builders, but a full 11,000 square feet shy of consolidator-in-chief President Obama's digs.

One Homeland Security Department data center slated for closure in Arlington, Va., covers about 1,500 square feet, an agency official said. But the agency does not know the size of the other four data centers it plans to close in Texas and in the Washington metro area, he said.

Data centers can vary hugely in the amount of physical space they take up and server space they provide, so there's no way of telling whether the more than 100 other data centers pegged for closure each take up a similar amount of space, or much more or less.

Most of the agencies operating the remaining 109 data centers scheduled for closure did not respond to Nextgov requests for specific details.

Other agencies said the information was too difficult to gather. Some of the centers are leased or contractor-operated facilities, or are too closely integrated into other nondata center operations to be meaningfully split out, they said.

The Defense Department, which operates 57 of those 109 data centers, did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls requesting information. Defense operates more than a third of the roughly 2,100 federal data centers now in operation.

Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra's 25-point implementation plan for reforming federal IT, released in December 2010, calls on the government to shut down about 800 data centers by 2015, either by consolidating the data they hold into underutilized centers, or by moving it to more versatile cloud computing storage.

The consolidation plan will save the government millions of dollars over the next decade and significantly reduce its carbon footprint, Kundra has said.

Kundra's office has not collected from the agencies information on the physical space or server space used by the data centers slated for closure or the likely layoffs stemming from the closures, a spokeswoman said.

The 10 data centers to be closed by Veterans Affairs and State won't result in any layoffs because the existing staff managing those facilities will be reassigned, the agencies said.

The five centers Homeland Security is closing won't produce any employee layoffs, but the Arlington facility, which houses Transportation Security Administration information, may yield up to six contractor layoffs, the agency said.

Other agencies did not provide information about likely layoffs.

The State Department will be shutting down about 7,000 square feet of space actually taken up by computer servers and the Veterans Affairs Department will be closing about 6,000 square feet, according to responses from the agencies.

Other agencies did not provide information about server space they'll close, or said they are unsure.