With IT modernization at the top of many federal agencies’ priority lists, it’s no surprise that the Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI) is a more prominent topic for discussion. Because it’s such a massive undertaking, especially given the state of legacy systems, best practice and protocol suggestions are extremely valuable in streamlining the processes.
This mentality prompted the Federal Executive Forum on Federal News Radio to host a show sharing a status update on DCOI, lessons learned, success stories, and current challenges facing federal agencies, among other things. The show featured both industry and federal panelists including Joe Klimavicz, Chief Information Officer for the Department of Justice, Melonie Parker-Hill, Division Chief, Enterprise Operations Center of the U.S. Department of State, Chris Steel, Chief Solutions Architect at Software AG Government Solutions.
Here are some key takeaways from the panelists on DCOI as it stands and where it’s headed:
What Progress Looks Like
When asked about progress in data center optimization, Klimavicz offered financially-driven examples mainly via resource consolidation. “We’ve estimated that in the last two years, we’ve saved or avoided spending $28 million dollars.” He also estimated that through further consolidation of their 75 existing data centers, another $27 million dollars will be saved by the end of 2019.
Parker-Hill supported Klimavicz’s point regarding the importance of cost savings in this process. She noted specifically their modular data center approach that allows the Department of State to abandon the financial obligations with leased data center properties and aggressively downsize the center itself. “It’s dense. It’s scalable. You have the modular component of it…It works into what we’re looking at for the optimization of data centers because we have the mandate to look at PUE and power utilization. We have the virtual footprint versus the physical footprint.”
Steel elaborated on how Software AG Government Solutions customers are moving out of the planning phase and into the implementation phase of data center optimization. The process is proving to be delicate and tedious though, so caution needs to be taken as systems are being updated. “We used to have a lot of traditional, monolithic applications, but today most of those are connected in some way. So what we have is a bunch of interconnected systems in our network and when you try to consolidate, you have to be able understand what all those dependencies are so you don’t end up moving some pieces and not the others and start breaking those dependencies.”
How Does Virtualization Factor In?
When asked about the importance of virtualization in the optimization process, Parker-Hill emphasized the Department of State’s “virtualization first” policy and the idea of moving away from brick-and-mortar reliance. The policy reduces both the department’s footprint as well as maintenance costs and has been a priority of theirs for years now.
On the topic of virtualization, Klimavicz emphasized the important role that cloud hybrid technologies play in enabling more agile, interoperable systems for the Department of Justice and being able to deliver the best customer service possible. To pilot more advanced virtualization capabilities than most departments have at their disposal, the Department of Justice partners with commercial companies that have more developed technologies. Klimavicz also noted that because policy is constantly changing, that agility is paramount to their department.
Moving forward, Klimavicz urged agencies to seek support from current data center leadership. He also encouraged those going through the motions of DCOI to invest time in a detailed optimization plan from the beginning and be prepared to hold people accountable. Timing is also important to consider. “If you can time the migrations with regular refresh cycles where money is budgeted for a technology refresh, don’t do it in your legacy facilities.” Klimavicz concluded with the notion of having a backup plan or exit strategy, as these processes are complex and give way to all kinds of complications.
Parker-Hill was quick to support Klimavicz with regards to reaching out to existing data center management for help. She followed that up with the idea that there is power in unity. “You have to have collaboration with those key stakeholders, those that have vested interest for the entire department.”
Steel seconded the importance of having a backup plan, because “nothing ever goes to plan, especially in initiatives of this size.” The adoption of nimble processes is crucial to that flexibility and the certainty of having to re-perform some tasks along the way.
Changing standards and definitions from the FDCCI to DCOI is something Parker-Hill pointed to when looking at equipment inventorying. “You have to go and look in those closets. You have to go and look under the desk or that office that was converted into a test lab and you have to count those things.” Discovery of all those products can be daunting but is absolutely necessary in the consolidation process.
In the Department of Justice, Klimavicz cited networking as a main challenge. “Where we have issues today, it’s not about the end environment. The data centers that we’re getting into are huge, very well run and very reliable and available. The network can be a challenge sometimes because we’re talking about reconfiguring and in our existing data centers; we have a lot of big pipes coming in and out of those things. When we get to commercial facilities, it may be a little different.” Security is, of course, also a prime concern and with shared infrastructure, additional security parameters are necessary.
Steel highlights the important investment of quality time in IT infrastructure and, because it is constantly evolving, the need to constantly look and think forward. “You really focus on today and what do I have to get done and you start to lose focus on what am I going to need tomorrow…And I think it is a real challenge for everyone up the chain to really keep that future state in mind as well.”
Regarding how the space looks moving forward, Steel emphasized the need for agility and flexibility across systems. “Everything is becoming fluid. As we move towards micro-services, IoT, having the ability to seamlessly move these things on and off premises to the cloud and replace them with SaaS-based services, the real challenge becomes being able to manage and monitor all that.”
At the Department of State, Parker-Hill sees a rise in hybrid cloud technologies down the road as well as pressing forward with the modular data center approach. And looking at the “skinny budget” now, Parker-Hill notes that “we’re going to have to think smarter with our investment dollars” and regularly report on ongoing cost savings.
In the near future, Klimavicz believes the end user computing experience will change overall because it is becoming increasingly driven by powerful cloud technology. This means access to more services in one place and a simpler end-to-end experience. Klimavicz also predicts that the perception of cyber as a whole will change. “We’re going to see much greater emphasis on securing the data and less on the physical boundaries.”
To see the full show on Federal News Radio, click here.