Data center consolidation is a key strategy in the Federal IT playbook. The Obama administration is betting on consolidation to reduce costs, lower energy consumption, improve IT security, and enable the shift to more efficient computing platforms, such as cloud computing. But how do Federal IT professionals and systems integrators view the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative guidance, key pain points, and recommendations? How realistic are the expectations? Are the goals attainable? Will Feds get to the finish line?

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In February 2010, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued its Data Center Consolidation Directive to reduce the then identified 1,100 Federal data centers. Eight months later, the reported data center population grew to 2,094. Under OMB’s direction, Federal agencies are working to cure their data center addiction to save energy and money, improve IT security, shift to more efficient computing platforms, and enable the data center workforce to focus on strategic IT initiatives. MeriTalk surveyed 200 Federal IT managers to gauge consolidation status, examine agency strategies, and share lessons learned.

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On April 12, 2011, Senator Carper (D-Del.), chair of the Senate Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security Subcommittee, held a hearing on Vivek Kundra’s 25 Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal Information Technology Management. MeriTalk testified and provided the Federal IT community’s perspective on the plan’s desirability and executability to Senator Carper and the Subcommittee.

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The Federal move to the cloud is on. As of December 9, 2010, OMB requires all agencies to adopt a “Cloud First” policy. Feds must choose a cloud-based solution first if one exists before initiating any new IT program – and must immediately begin transitioning existing applications to the cloud. Further, in February 2011, OMB provided additional direction to accelerate the safe and secure adoption of cloud computing. How many agencies have actually taken this step? How quickly are they progressing?

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OMB tasked Federal agencies with eliminating 800 data centers by 2015. How are agencies progressing toward this goal? What are the most meaningful metrics to track data center efficiency? Do agencies have a clear picture of consolidation costs and potential savings? And, importantly, how much have we saved so far?

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To save money, increase efficiencies, and fund the move to the cloud, the Federal government aims to eliminate 800 data centers by 2015 – with 137 slated for closure this year. In May 2011, MeriTalk and NetApp surveyed 157 Federal IT decision makers to dig deeper into the metrics agencies use to measure consolidation savings and to determine if agencies are increasing efficiency as they consolidate.

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With the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) focused on reducing the number of data centers in the Federal government, consolidation is on every agency’s menu. Yet as the Federal government reduces the number of data centers to cut cost, the complexity of the remaining data centers will increase. As the complexity of data centers increases, the cost of managing those data centers also increases – jeopardizing the savings from consolidation.

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While data center consolidation is the goal, server virtualization is an important step. So, how are agencies doing? Specifically, what have they virtualized, and what is the unrealized virtualization opportunity? Is the next logical move desktop virtualization? In October 2011, MeriTalk surveyed 302 Federal, state, and local government IT decision makers to understand their aspirations for and barriers to virtualization, as well as what’s next for government virtualization initiatives.

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Since the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) launched FDCCI in 2010, agencies have scrambled to meet the 2015 deadline of closing 1,200 data centers. More than halfway to the key date, agencies have found that data center consolidation can save money, boost efficiencies, and free up dollars that can be used for innovation or to fund other programs. But, while agencies are realizing tangible benefits as a result of consolidation, they are challenged to demonstrate quantifiable cost savings.

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Federal CIOs are surrounded by data. But more is not always better, and they are searching for ways to better manage the large and growing amounts of structured and unstructured data that their agencies collect and store.

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Federal IT issues are on top of everyone’s mind. Shrinking budgets and demands to innovate make the Federal CIOs job harder than ever. Public-private collaboration is more critical now than ever.

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With fewer resources, Federal CIOs have difficult decisions to make. But cutting corners on important solutions that protect data and applications is not sustainable. Public-private collaboration is a key to success.

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IT has changed how Federal agencies deliver services. New applications automate processes, keep more agents in the field, and empower tens of millions of citizens to self-serve. And as data use escalates, so does the government’s reliance on data centers.

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What’s the path forward for modernization? Feds recognize the innovation opportunity and are looking to cloud to help bridge the gap.

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Software-Defined Networking (SDN) promises to be a lean, mean, cost-cutting machine, but what do Feds that are on the road to SDN say – is it all clear skies ahead? Download our report, “Automation to Support Government Imperatives: Dawn of SDN,” to find out.

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