It's Not Enough to Close a Few Data Centers; Those Left Must Become More Efficient


White House plans to roll data center optimization in with a larger review of agencies’ IT portfolios.

The Office of Management and Budget wants to focus less on simply closing federal data centers and more on making sure the government’s existing data center stock is operating as efficiently as possible, an OMB official said Thursday.

That’s why federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel’s office plans to roll its three-year-old data center consolidation initiative into a separate program called PortfolioStat, which audits agencies’ commodity information technology budgets to root out waste and inefficiencies, said OMB Portfolio Manager Scott Renda, who works in VanRoekel’s office.

OMB plans to officially consolidate the two programs in the near future, Renda said. He was speaking at a data center event sponsored by MeriTalk, an organization that sponsors events and conversations focused on federal technology.

“You’re going to see more focus on the right kind of metrics, efficiency metrics” Renda said. “[We’ll be] thinking about PUE [an energy measurement], thinking about storage, thinking about density measures that really talk to how efficient your infrastructure is. The goal with PortfolioStat is an efficient infrastructure that’s serving the mission of the agency. Consolidation is done to support that program and mission.”

OMB expects to save more than $5 billion by closing or consolidating federal data centers and by making data centers that remain more efficient, VanRoekel has said.

The agency regularly updates a tally of data centers it has closed or plans to close across government but has published fewer of the more complex performance measurements Renda described.

Agencies have had mixed success gathering those metrics. Dave Hinchman, assistant director of the Government Accountability Office’s IT management division, said during Thursday’s event that some agencies haven’t even reported how many square feet their data centers occupy. Agencies also have had difficulty gathering information about how much energy their data centers actually use. 

One ongoing goal of the data center optimization initiative will be determining which centers house information and processes that are vital to agencies’ missions and which data centers are performing less crucial tasks or tasks that require less security, Renda said.

Less crucial processes might be farmed out to other data centers within the agency or to government or private sector computer clouds. 

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