NASA Light Years Ahead on Data Center Consolidation

Agency may be only one to comply with FITARA's 2018 deadline

Karen Riccio

March 31, 2017

3 Min Read
NASA Light Years Ahead on Data Center Consolidation
The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) sits in the cargo bay of the Space Shuttle Discovery in September, 1991 in space. (Photo by NASA via Getty Images)

All of the federal agencies out there ought to take a page from The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s data center consolidation playbook.

Despite increasingly restrictive legislation over the past seven years designed to reduce the number of inefficient and unnecessary data centers, NASA may be the only agency to comply with the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act’s 2018 deadline, reported MeriTalk.

It’s 33 down and just six to go for NASA, which began its consolidation efforts with 59 data centers. Twenty will remain operational because each of the agency’s 10 major offices and satellite locations require at least one on-premise facility. Karen Petraska, program executive for computing services at NASA, said she her team toured all 59 data centers before determining which to keep and which to close.

“It gave us better insight as to which should stay for the long haul and which should be offered up for closure,” she said.

The Departments of Agriculture, Treasury, and Justice were praised as well for contributing largely to slashing the 10,000 originally inventoried data centers down to 5,600. However, more cooperation and expediency is needed from every government agency to meet next year’s deadline.

No one questions the challenges of consolidation. The updating of IT infrastructures, adoption of cloud services to move existing data, just deciding what stays and what goes, are no easy tasks. And none of the above can happen overnight.

Read also: Half-baked Government Consolidation Causes Cybersecurity Headaches

“Some agencies have a lot more complex data centers and politics. It could be any number of things,” Petraska said. “Older things are hard to move. Big things are hard to move. There’s some inertia there. The process alone of figuring out which data centers they need to close—and subsequent negotiation with managers to pare down that list—took almost a year.”

The government has been working much longer on its consolidation plan. Here’s a little history.

The Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI) of 2010 didn’t require specific actions by agencies but simply promoted the use of green IT by reducing the overall energy and real estate footprint of government data centers, and reducing the cost of data center hardware, software and operations.

Then came the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act that required agencies to conduct data center inventories and identify facilities they could close and consolidate, set goals for footprint reduction, and created rules for regular progress reporting.

Finally, the Data Center Optimization Initiative replaced the 2010 act last year and added even more rules. If an agency wants to build a data center or expand an existing one, it must prove beyond the shadow of a doubt to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that no better alternatives exist, such as using cloud services or leasing colocation space. DCOI also raised the amount of data centers agencies were required to close, and put in place a number of additional requirements for energy efficiency, server virtualization, server and facility utilization, and use of data center management tools.

The bottom line desired results from all this legislation is clearly to save the government money by reducing its sprawling data center inventory and what it costs to maintain. The goal is to save nearly $1.4 billion by the 2018 deadline, but that is in danger of not being met if the balance of agencies continue to lag.

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