MeriTalk Study Sheds Light On Federal Data Center Initiatives

Even the longest journey begins with taking the first step. Unfortunately, less than 50 percent of the basic steps necessary to accomplish the 2021 goals have been implemented.

Bill Stoller

April 8, 2016

3 Min Read
MeriTalk Study Sheds Light On Federal Data Center Initiatives
USA, Washington DC, Capitol building at dusk

A recently published MeriTalk survey sheds light on where an estimated $10 billion could be saved by moves to improve power consumption, capacity, physical footprint, speed, and security.

The need to transition to more efficient federal IT solutions was underscored last month by the directive signed by the White House freeze on data center expansion and construction by federal agencies accelerate colocation and cloud deployments.

If an agency wants to build a data center or expand an existing one, it must make the case that there is no better alternative, such as using cloud services, leasing colocation space, or using services shared with other agencies.

Latest Cloud SLA Blueprint

Federal agencies have traditionally had a bias towards on-premise IT solutions, despite a series of initiatives, including "Cloud First" announced in 2011, and most recently, the Data Center Optimization Initiative.

Read more: Will Federal Data Center Construction Freeze Benefit Colocation Providers?

On March 7, the General Accounting Office (GAO) released a list of best-practice guidelines agencies should follow in creating service level agreements (SLA) with cloud service providers:

  1. Specify roles and responsibilities.

  2. Define key terms.

  3. Define clear measures for performance.

  4. Specify how and when the agency has access to its own data and networks.

  5. Specify how the cloud service provider will monitor performance and when the agency will confirm that performance.

  6. Provide for disaster recovery planning and testing.

  7. Describe performance exception criteria.

  8. Specify how providers are measured for protecting data.

  9. Determine how the provider will notify the agency of a security breach.

  10. Specify the consequences for non-compliance with SLA performance measures.

The GAO found that about one-third of the contracts they reviewed already fulfilled the 10 practices. The list of procedures was forwarded to the White House OMB to include in its cloud recommendations to federal agencies.

MeriTalk 'Flash-Forward' Highlights

This report mainly focused on what needed to be accomplished by 2021, and the likelihood of accomplishing some of the tasks.


Source: MeriTalk - "Flash-Forward" March 29, 2016

Security: While there was a broad range of answers to most of the questions, this was not the case when it came to security, where 97 percent of managers responding felt that there was a need to upgrade security.

The universal concerns regarding security could act as a tailwind to encourage migration to FedRAMP vetted colocation and cloud service providers. The efficacy of cost savings while simultaneously upgrading security and disaster recovery would seem to be a compelling combination.

Mission Readiness: On the other hand, only 11 percent of federal IT managers felt that their data centers were "fully equipped" to meet their agency’s current mission demands. Perhaps the most telling statistic was that only five percent of these managers felt that current facilities would be sufficient to handle agency computing requirements in 2021.

Cloud Adoption: A heartening trend was that managers foresee nearly doubling the number of systems in the cloud over the next five years, from 28 percent to 48 percent. However, according to the report, only 47 percent have established a leadership team, and only 42 percent have a formal vision for the future.

Inadequate budgets, security, bandwidth and legacy systems were all mentioned as potential roadblocks. This may be why only 60 percent of federal IT managers believe they will be able to comply with "Cloud First" by 2021.

A Slow Start

Even the longest journey begins with taking the first step. Unfortunately, less than 50 percent of the basic steps necessary to accomplish the 2021 goals have been implemented.

  • Established a leadership team - 47 percent.

  • Established a formal vision for the future - 42 percent.

  • Audited data center(s) to understand current capabilities and shortcomings - 39 percent.

  • Cataloged all aspects of the data center - 39 percent.

  • Developed case studies and/or ROI estimates around planned investments - 35 percent.

  • Leveraged big data to approximate future needs - 31 percent.

When it came to estimating success with complying with FDCCI by 2021, the difference between civilian and DoD agencies was negligible, with 55 percent and 53 percent affirmative responses, respectively.


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