Feds release map of data center closings

The U.S. is accelerating the closing of data centers

While Congress debates the debt ceiling and the federal budget, the White House is accelerating its plans to close data centers as a means to trim billions of dollars from its IT budget.

By 2012, the U.S. plans to close 373 data centers, representing about 800,000 square feet of space, or about the size of 14 football fields, an official pointed out on Wednesday.

The White House today released a map showing the locations of the 373 data centers earmarked for closing over the next two years. The Google Maps-based map is sprinkled with targeted data centers from coast-to-coast, with the highest concentration in the Northeast.

The targeted data centers range in size from a 195,000-square foot Department of Homeland Security facility in Alabama to four Department of Agriculture data centers, each of less than 1,000 square feet in size.

If the White House reaches its 2012 goal, it will put the government almost half way to its plan to shut down 800 of its 2,000 data centers by 2015. The government expects to save about $3 billion annually.

The U.S. had planned to close 137 data centers by the end of 2011, but updated that to 195 by year's end.

Outgoing federal CIO Vivek Kundra, in a conference call today to discuss the closings, said average utilization for these data centers, in terms of computing power, is less than 27% and storage utilization is less than 40%.

"This is unacceptable in any time, especially when we are talking about a tough budgetary environment," Kundra said.

He said that on Oct. 7, each federal agency will be required to put online details of which data centers they intend to close and the square footage of all the facilities targeted for closing. The only exception is data centers the government wishes to maintain the secrecy of.

U.S. government agencies have rapidly expanded data centers since 1998, when there were only 432.

When asked in the call with reporters how the closings will affect employees, Kundra said that in many cases the data centers are managed by contractors, indicating it would be up to those firms to determine what happens to employees. For federal employees, he said the goal is to retool them for other jobs.

Kundra is leaving his post next month for a fellowship at Harvard and there's been discussion in federal IT circles about whether his initiatives, particularly his strong emphasis on cloud adoption, will continue.

The impact of Kundra's exit came up as a topic on a panel Wednesday at the Fose information technology conference here.

"It would be difficult to imagine that the IT reform agenda is going to be forgotten once Vivek leaves and a new (federal CIO) person comes in," David McClure, associate administrator in the IT department of U.S. General Services Administration.

"This administration has really tied itself to achieving these things. I wouldn't expect major shifts" in administration IT policy, McClure said.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS 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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