Feds Discover 1,000 More Data Centers

The U.S. government has 2,094 data centers, nearly 1,000 more than previous estimates, according to an updated inventory by federal agencies. The finding underscores the scope of the challenge facing the Obama administration as it seeks to streamline the government’s IT infrastructure.

For months, Federal CIO Vivek Kundra has cited the existence of 1,100 federal data centers as evidence of government waste and inefficiency. Kundra has repeatedly used this data point to drive home the need for a major data center consolidation that will consolidate servers and drastically reduce the number of U.S. government facilities.

It turns out Kundra was massively underestimating the extent of the redundancy. The new total was included in a memo from Kundra and Department of Homeland Security CIO Richard Spires, who is coordinating the government consolidation effort.

Off by 1,000 Facilities?
How could the government lose track of 1,000 data centers? It’s not uncommon for consolidation-related inventories to uncover more servers and IT rooms than expected. The U.S. government’s effort looms as the largest data center consolidation in history, so the disconnect between initial estimates and the final count was equally epic.

The process defined a data center as any room larger than 500 square feet dedicated to data processing that meets the one of the four tier classifications defined by The Uptime Institute.

Which agencies have the most data centers? Not surprisingly, those with the most distributed operations:

  • Department of Defense (772)
  • State Department (361)
  • Department of the Interior (210)
  • Health and Human Services (185)
  • Department of Energy (89)
  • Veteran’s Administration (87)

The plans and budgets submitted by federal agencies are being reviewed by the administration and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), with a goal of approving final plans by Dec. 31. The process got underway back in March, when Kundra directed federal agencies to prepare an inventory of their IT assets by April 30 and submit a preliminary data center consolidation plan by Aug. 31.

In announcing the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative, Kundra outlined four high-level goals:

  • Promote the use of Green IT by reducing the overall energy and real estate footprint of government data centers;
  • Reduce the cost of data center hardware, software and operations;
  • Increase the overall IT security posture of the government;
  • Shift IT investments to more efficient computing platforms and technologies.

That last bullet point is boosting expectations that a meaningful chunk of government IT operations will be shifted to a cloud computing model. Spires said in an Aug. 31 presentation that he expects some of the agency-level consolidation plans to include proposals to use cloud computing services.

The General Services Administration is in the final stages of shoring up the requirements for a government-wide program to certify and accredit cloud computing products and services through a process known as the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP).

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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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  1. MattAtNASA

    Hi there! While the issue of Federal Datacenters is an important one, you've asked a question that's very simple to answer. "How could the government lose track of 1,000 data centers?" -- Easy! There's been no consistent definition of "Data Center" throughout these audits. When one auditor comes through, they define datacenter as "A big room where lots of servers are stored", and find 10. A different auditor defines it as "Anywhere that a few machines are collected and left on all night", and finds 1000. The real answer is, "There are too many but not as many as you could shoehorn into the definition if you tried", and that number is probably unquantifiable by practical terms and levels of effort. :)

  2. Rocky

    The Keystone Kops designed the requests for Federal data center information, so I'm not surprised at the big changes. Don't be surprised again if future revisions add another 500-1000 data centers. The original request defined a "data center" as any room with 3 or more servers! Follow on requests asked for dozens of additional data points; we were given less than a week to respond; and they had lost much of the info we had already given them. Most Feds outside of DoD have suffered through budget cuts in the past decade, so the proliferation of data centers happened for good reasons. Yes, we can consolidate, but don't believe miraculous claims like dropping from a few thousand to fewer than 100. And expect Congress to get involved as soon as high-paying data center jobs are threatened in their districts. You can't run the Federal Government like a business unless you give up on the democratically elected government part.

  3. David Harrity

    You mistakenly listed "Department of Education (89)" which is incorrect. DOE = Department of Energy in the report and your bulleted list should be revised as "Department of Energy (89)". Department of Education ("Education" in the official report; ED = the official acronym of the agency) only has 3 data centers.

  4. Thanks, David. The story has been corrected. :)

  5. Nunya

    And not one database of datacenters...

  6. DataCenter'd Off

    data center consolidations as they are currently conceived are leading to a bonanza for a select few contractors (not a guvvie in sight at these massive new data centers). The costs of running IT assets is about to go through the roof. No one has any sense of proportion or sensibility in trying to drive capabilities into the rapacious arms of the designated contractor/fleecers. If the contention is that there are improvements in service and support and efficiencies of scale, then these things ought to be measured and evaluated. It's not rocket science, and it shouldn't be snake oil either. From a program management perspective, the best strategy at the moment appears to be to delay, defer, and hide, and pray the whole thing collapses under the weight of its incompetence before it does any significant damage to the program. Unfortunately, although the bloom is off the flower, the thing's not going to lose momentum until after kundra and spires move on and don't have to admit failure. And there's going to be a lot (LOT) of damage done and money wasted before that happens.

  7. Brian

    I've worked in datacenters and even if there is (1) server in a 10x10 room that's still 1000 servers that haven't been accounted for. So what the government has paid for equipment, paid for the electricity, monitoring, and cooling of some 1,00 datacenters and servers and then just discovered them. Glad to see taxes being put to such good use.

  8. Crowell Satmford

    With the advanced network capabilities avaialble centralized Data Center approach is the answer.......Distributed model is outdated expensive and lacks security controls