Report: Progress in Federal Data Center Consolidation; But What is a 'Data Center'?

Data center vendors NetApp and MeriTalk have released a new report which provides a status update on federal data center consolidation progress to comply with the Office of Management and Budget's deadline for federal agencies to eliminate 800 data centers by 2015.

Based on a survey of 152 Federal IT decision makers, the report states that about half (47%) of federal agencies have consolidated some of their data centers. However, they lack a consistent definition of what a data center compromises, Mark Weber, NetApp president of U.S. public sector, tells 5 Minute Briefing. Clearly, there is action happening and people are reducing data center counts, he says. "That is pretty big news. The big key message is being received and people are starting to monitor, measure and capture results on their efforts."

Most federal agencies use a consistent definition of a data center within their own agency, but agencies are not using the same definition as one another, the study found. For example, 32% of respondents say a data center is any room larger than 1,000 sq. ft. that includes multiple servers, and 30% say any room that is devoted to data processing servers, i.e., server closets (often less than 200 sq. ft.) and server rooms (less than 500 sq. ft.) within a conventional building are considered data centers. According to the report, 16% of federal IT decision makers surveyed identified a data center as any room larger than 500 sq. ft. dedicated to data processing that meets one of the four tier classifications by the Uptime Institute.

Another salient point is that 95% of respondents say their organizations have defined metrics to monitor their data centers but the metrics they are capturing are not consistent. Fewer than 50% are monitoring storage capacity utilization and fewer than 50% are measuring network bandwidth, "so clearly what they are measuring is not very consistent," Weber says. "Whatever you measure, people are going to drive toward it, so that is the take-away. We need to get more consistent on what are the measurements so we have better reporting on results." In addition, there is no consensus on the best metrics to identify consolidation opportunities.

Despite the disagreement, these consolidation efforts are delivering savings, the survey finds. Among the 47% of respondents who say that their agency has successfully consolidated some data centers, data center counts have been reduced by 31%, and 20% shaved off IT budgets.

Nearly all respondents expect that their consolidation efforts will result in significant savings. When completed, respondents expect the consolidation will reduce IT budgets by 24%, translating to an estimated annual government-wide savings of $18.8 billion. Federal IT decision makers believe they will meet the OMB's 2015 deadline to consolidate data centers.

The report is available from MeriTalk.