Feds expand data center closing goal

U.S. broadens its approach to data center consolidations

WASHINGTON -- About 30% of the federal government's IT spending is being used to support data center infrastructure and the U.S. hopes to save billions down the road as it closes and consolidates its data centers.

Steven VanRoekel, who was recently appointed federal CIO, replacing Vivek Kundra, who resigned to take a fellowship at Harvard, plans to broaden the government's consolidation plan.

The U.S. originally announced plans to close 800 of its approximately 2,000 data centers of 500 square feet or more by 2015.

But VanRoekel, a former Microsoft executive, said the government will take "bolder steps," to increase the scope of data centers targeted for closing "to really capture all square footage." That means including facilities of 100 square feet or more.

That change in the square footage of facilities to be targeted increases the number of federal data centers that could be closed to 2,800. The government originally said it would close 373 data centers by the end of 2012, but has since expanded that number to 472.

In total, agencies have indicated that they can close 962 data centers by 2015, and VanRoekel, on a conference call with reporters today, said a new goal is being set that may be higher than this estimate.

The U.S., beginning Friday, plans to release specific statistics on the data centers being closed. The government has not yet detailed the total square footage of its data centers or the amount of raised-floor space.

VanRoekel said officials are developing a cost model that will allow CIOs across the agencies to make comparisons on data center operating costs.

VanRoekel described the amount of money going to data center infrastructure as 30 cents of every dollar. The U.S. spends about $80 billion annually on IT.

That spending estimate sounded high to Mark Levin, a partner at Metrics Based Assessments LLC, who said the government may be including the cost of the networks in it.

Federal officials are estimating $630 million in near-term savings as a result of data center consolidations and savings of more than $5 billion in the years beyond 2015 as a result of the consolidation effort.

Cutting federal employees doesn't appear to be part of the cost-saving strategy. VanRoekel said the government would take these workers and move them to "more high-value work."

While managing data centers is important, VanRoekel said he would rather have these IT workers on projects that more directly help citizens and businesses.

Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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