Challenges dog data center consolidation efforts

Agencies report successes on data center consolidations, but challenges continue to put hurdles along the path.

As officials continue to consolidate their data centers, they are achieving successes, even though new challenges are coming to light, according to a new report.

Many agencies reported successes to the Government Accountability Office. Agencies identified 34 areas of success related to the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI). However, only three of those areas were reported by more than one agency. The most reported areas focused on the benefits of key technologies and the benefits of working with other agencies.

Nine agencies said their focus on virtualization and cloud computing have proven successful for their consolidation efforts. Eight agencies said they have been successful in consolidation by agencies working together, both within and outside of their department, to identify ways to consolidate.

“These constructive experiences…indicate that FDCCI is moving in the right direction,” GAO wrote.

But new obstacles are appearing. Agencies reported seven challenges that are specific to the initiative, including obtaining power usage and providing good quality asset inventories.

Cultural changes remain a persistent problem. Five agencies reported it as a challenge. For example, Energy Department officials found there is a perceived need for each facility or agency to have ownership of their own data centers and server rooms, a roadblock to consolidation.

Agencies also reported enterprise buy-in as a challenge. Five agencies reported it, an increase from the single agency reporting it last year. For example, Homeland Security Department officials reported their consolidation effort required immense amounts of coordination among various parts of the organization. But delays and other issues arose when stakeholders had differing visions and levels of commitment to the initiative.

In addition, agencies are struggling with funding to carry out the consolidations, and difficulties with constraints on procurement, technology and resources in general. For example, the General Services Administration encountered construction contracting problems. Some vendors couldn’t meet award schedules, and others were unresponsive. There also were long lead times for some IT equipment. So, GSA officials allotted more time to plan contracts and schedules for vendors to deliver supplies.

With advances in the initiative, seven agencies reported challenges with drafting a migration strategy. Only two agencies reported the challenge in 2011.

“Such a dynamic environment reinforces the need for agencies to remain in communication in order to facilitate knowledge sharing and transfer and for [the Office of Management and Budget] to continue to provide leadership and guidance,” GAO wrote.