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A Blueprint for Data Center Consolidation

This morning I attended the GovLoop Conversation Event sponsored by Oracle: Your Agencies’ Data Center Consolidation Blueprint: Applying Yesterday’s Lessons to Tomorrow’s Success at District Architecture.

The event had a great discussion about data center consolidation and some of the challenges facing the federal government. Data center consolidation has turned into one of the hot topics in government and agencies have already seen the benefits of data center consolidation. Numerous challenges towards data center consolidation implementation and management have been identified. One example of data center consolidation success comes from the Census Bureau, which was able to close a 6,750 facility and free up $1.7 million in operating costs. The Census Bureau strategy has allowed them to reduce data center power consumption in all of their data centers by 10%.

The Census Bureau is not alone, and due to the numerous successes reported by Federal agencies, Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel has expanded his goals of closing redundant data centers. By the end of 2015, agencies plan to close nearly 1,080 data centers, surpassing goals set by the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative two years ago. Data center consolidation is a practical solution to cutting costs, increasing services, and improving efficiency for agencies. Although consolidation is a practical solution, there are numerous challenges and obstacles along the way for the federal to truly benefit from data center consolidation initiatives. Our panel today touched on numerous of these issues, which are explored below.

One of the comments was that data center consolidation could be looked at through 3 m’s: mandate, money, and motivation. All three are critical for the success of a data center consolidation initiative. Some participants expressed that since data center consolidation has been mandated, agencies have rushed into contracts without the proper planning or implementing the right process. There is no denying that one of the reasons consolidation has been taking off is due to promises of cost savings. Measuring costs savings is challenging, and there are lots of factors to consider. Agencies at all levels need to be provided with and grated access to the right financial information to make a decision on how to best enter in a contract and start a data consolidation initiative.

One interesting observation was how in the private sector, data center consolidation often leads to a reduction of staff and job functions, in the public sector, the cloud is sometimes used to free staff and allow staff to focus on the organizations most critical objectives.

Contract costs were also a topic discussed and the need for contracts to be more agile in government. Government contracts need flexibility as to how the contract is structured to allow the agency to adapt to needs. Participants also mentioned that during the planning phase, it is easier to migrate newer apps and systems to the cloud before legacy programs. This is because legacy programs were never intended to be in the cloud, and are more complex systems to fully migrate. A final note on contracts is that it is extremely difficult for agencies if they enter into multiple contracts with different vendors throughout the consolidation process. Not only does this risk increasing costs, it also can impact efficiency and functionality of the project.

The final take-away from today’s event is that there is often a cultural challenge related to data center consolidation. Governance and managing the process are challenges that agencies face while crafting their solutions. Many participants stated that sometimes the easiest part of data center consolidation is the technology, but a real challenge is managing the process and understanding the needs of the organization, and how consolidating data centers can help support key missions of the organization.

Today the panel included:

  • Moderator: Chris Dorobek, Publisher and Editor at DorobekINSIDER.com
  • Zach Baldwin, Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative, Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, General Services Administration
  • Girish, Solutions Specialist manager, Platform and Cloud Computing, Oracle Public Sector

The “GovLoop Conversations” format is unique and engaging for participants. Our experts sit at tables amongst the attendees and serve as facilitators to a larger discussion. Today, the panel listened to participants, identified some challenges and advised attendees on how to manage or avoid roadblocks.

Oracle offers an optimized and fully integrated stack of business hardware and software systems that helps organizations overcome complexity and unleash innovation.. Check out their Optimize with Oracle group on GovLoop as well as the Technology Sub-Community of which they are a council member.

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Terri Jones

I love this part…

“One interesting observation was how in the private sector, data center consolidation often leads to a reduction of staff and job functions, in the public sector, the cloud is sometimes used to free staff and allow staff to focus on the organizations most critical objectives…”

I hope that government staff can feel safe enough to explore consolidation so we can free up time to focus on more important things like constituent service or process improvement…