Kundra says reducing data centers takes a village

Agency strategies to consolidate data centers are due to OMB by Aug. 30. Kundra says his office will approve them by Dec. 31. He advises agencies that this is m...

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

Agencies are putting their final touches on plans to consolidate more than 1,100 data centers across the government.

And in the last few days before chief information officers turn their strategies into the Office of Management and Budget, federal CIO Vivek Kundra reminded them that ultimate success depends on one thing.

“The only way this initiative can be successful is if it’s not seen or cast in the light of only a technology initiative,” Kundra said during an interview with Federal News Radio. “That isone of the reasons we have made sure we have engaged the sustainability community and the financial community.”

OMB wants agencies to submit final data center consolidation plans by Aug. 30. CIOs have been working on developing these strategies all year starting with Kundra’s February memo.

Kundra said the Obama administration’s sustainability goals, along with its mandate to reduce the amount of real estate the government owns or manages, are key pieces to every agency’s data center strategy.

President Obama issued two executive orders requiring agencies to address these issues.

In October 2009, the President issued the mandate to reduce the government’s carbon footprint and increase its energy efficiency.

In June, Obama issued another executive order requiring agencies to reduce the amount of their unused real estate. Kundra said part of that mandate requires agencies to keep the amount of data center space they lease or own constant.

“It’s going to take not just CIOs across the federal government, but it is going to take CFOs and strategic sustainability officers to really move this initiative forward because there’s so many equities from multiple communities,” he said. “As we think about this in the long term, it’s vital that all these communities, whether you are looking at it from a cost or from a greening of IT perspective, that the upside of actually consolidating and optimizing these assets has a huge benefit more broadly.”

In fact, Kundra just met with Nancy Sutley, the White House’s chairwoman of the Council on Environmental Quality, to plan a meeting of CIOs, CFOs and sustainability officers where they will decide on specific efficiency targets.

He said this is beyond the data center goals agencies are submitting to OMB this month.

Those plans will include agency goals for data consolidation as they relate to business needs, according to a document on the CIO Council’s website.

Agencies also will have to submit measurable goals, such as eliminating bureau-specific data centers or moving to a shared service center.

Agencies will also have to provide the areas such as cybersecurity, identity and access management or collaboration tools, where they plan on using a shared services provider.

The strategy must include a timeline, governance process, cost-benefit analysis, risk management and mitigation plan, acquisition management approach and a communications plan. OMB also wants agencies to meet specific targets such as 30-to-40 percent server virtualization, average rack space utilization of 80-to-90 percent and power usage efficiency of 1.6 to 1.3.

“You are going to have execution around consolidation starting from beginning of this effort,” Kundra said. “The Homeland Security Department and NASA already are seeing change. Some agencies will move faster than others.”

Kundra added that OMB will approve agency plans by Dec. 31 as part of the fiscal 2012 budget process.

OMB also will release a new baseline for the number of data centers across the government in September. Kundra only would say the number will be “north of 1,100” but wouldn’t offer any further details.

“We want to make sure that agencies are spending the appropriate amount of time and due diligence to make sure that the number, which will serve as a baseline for years to come, is actually well-vetted, they have thought through it, and it’s consistent with the definition of data center,” he said. “There is a distinction between having a telecommunications closet on one floor and calling that a data center versus an actual data center with servers, routers and switches and consumes significant amounts of energy because of cooling needs across the board.”

OMB spent a lot of time this year ensuring agencies were using the same standard to define what a data center is. Kundra said the government adopted the definition from the Uptime Institute. It says that data centers must be a room that is devoted to data processing servers, typically greater than 500 square feet and meets the industry classification for tier standards.

Agencies submitted initial consolidation plans in June. OMB and a team of 25 data center experts from around the government reviewed the strategies and made recommendations for improvements.

Kundra said this group of detailees helped focus agency proposals.

“We convened a team of 25 people to give agencies specific feedback in terms of how aggressive they are being as far as their plans are concerned, what they need to do to make sure they are grounded in reality and they are being practical, and to make sure that they also are taking a horizontal view of the potential as far as consolidation is concerned and looking at game changing technologies and not just webifying their old business processes,” he said.

These experts also will help in reviewing the final plans on an as needed basis, Kundra said.

The idea to create this team of experts came from the workshops the CIO Council and OMB sponsored this year.

“We are making sure we are bringing people in from outside individual agencies to get a second look at what they were thinking,” he said.

So as agencies finalize their plans this week, Kundra offers some basic advice. He said agencies must “make sure this is not treated as just an IT project because it’s much bigger than an IT project. It will have significant impact on sustainability as we think about these broader initiatives. It has a significant impact on real estate and how we optimize our assets. It’s also an opportunity for agencies to rethink their computer models in terms of what are the next generation technologies or platforms. How do you get a late mover advantage as we embark on the one of the largest consolidation efforts in history.”

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