OMB Preps New Policy on Data Centers

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OMB’s retooled guidelines are part of the administration's roadmap for implementing and operationalizing FITARA.

The Office of Management and Budget is preparing to release a new strategy for shuttering -- and optimizing -- thousands of energy-guzzling government data centers as part of a continued shift toward cloud computing and provisioned services.

“A solid draft” of a new data center policy will be released for public comment in the “near future,” said Jamie Berryhill, chief of policy, budget and communications at the Office of Management and Budget, speaking Wednesday at a Washington, D.C., event on the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act hosted by MeriTalk.

The new policy “really refreshes our data center initiatives,” Berryhill said. The policy will retain targets for closing and consolidating data centers but shifts the focus toward optimization, he said. That includes server utilization, energy efficiency “and a number of other metrics that we plan to bake into the policy,” he added.

The policy shift also aligns the government’s efforts to better manage and inventory its IT infrastructure more with private sector standards.

The effort to close down and consolidate often inefficient data centers stems from a 2010 policy begun under the Obama administration's first federal chief information officer, Vivek Kundra, as part of the 25-point IT overhaul.

The original goal was to close 40 percent of government’s data centers by 2015 and to save an estimated $5 billion.

However, agencies have consistently run into problems accounting for savings. And as IT reform efforts ramped up -- and visibility into IT spending improved -- agencies kept turning up new data centers.

The government, to date, has closed 3,300 data centers -- more than the total number of data centers the government estimated it had when the shutdown effort began five years ago. But the consolidations have only saved approximately $2.5 billion, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Meanwhile, the number of data centers currently owned by agencies and inventoried by GAO in its latest tally has shot up to 9,700.

OMB’s retooled guidelines are part of the administration's roadmap for implementing and operationalizing FITARA, the 2014 federal IT reform law, which sets out new authority for agency chief information officers in controlling and managing agency IT spending. The law also included a provision enshrining Obama administration's data center consolidation efforts into law.

In the coming days, OMB is also planning to go live with a public dashboard tracking agencies’ progress implementing FITARA.

Last month, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released its own scorecard measuring agencies’ performance carrying out the law’s mandates. Of the 24 agencies rated by the committee, 15 received failing grades on their data center consolidation efforts, which evaluated agencies based on the percentage of planned savings they have already realized.

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