The Good, the Bad and the Ugly About Government Data Storage

Savings are starting to appear, but data centers still operate in the dark.

The past few days have demonstrated benefits and some pitfalls related to the government’s shift to nimble cloud-based storage for much of its computer services.

The good news: those promised money savings are starting to appear and demonstrate the government’s technology shop has some hope of fulfilling its promise to be a driver of efficiency during lean times. Note, especially, General Services Administration Chief Information Officer Casey Coleman’s Tuesday blog post in which she reports the agency has already saved $2 million in the year since its move to a cloud-based email system and is on track to save $15 million over the next five years.

The bad news is that the government continues to do a lot of this work in the dark. The New York Times’ comprehensive series on data centers, which launched on Sunday, reveals how little industry actually knows about its data’s environmental footprint and how often even simple cost and energy saving programs fall by the wayside.

The government is similarly clueless about energy consumption in its data centers. That means it’s unlikely to make the best decisions about which data to move to the cloud. It also draws into question whether the government’s understanding of its own energy consumption will be any better in the cloud than it was in traditional data centers.