Government agencies continue to make solid progress toward meeting the goals outlined under the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI), according to officials who spoke earlier this month at Federal Forum 2013, hosted by Meritalk and Brocade. Agency officials are leveraging lessons learned since the initiative was launched in 2010, and are establishing best practices. Key among these is sharing resources, particularly applications that can serve multiple organizations.
Inter-agency sharing will go a long way toward realizing cost-savings, gaining efficiencies, and ultimately helping to facilitate the mandated closing of 40 percent of the federal government’s 3,133 data centers over the next couple of years. Wolf Tombe, Chief Technology Officer, Customs and Border Control, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), says his agency has already reduced its data center footprint and is “pre-positioned for shared services” in order to “create [the] extreme efficiencies…[and] survive these hard (budget) cuts.
“The whole shared services model is an imperative for us,” Tombe adds. “We need to get to that. The cost savings is pretty dramatic.”
The Department of Labor echoes Tombe’s sentiment. “The real crux was looking at what (other) agencies are doing and what applications can be shared,” says Louis Charlier, Director, Enterprise Services, Office of the Chief Information Officer, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management, Department of Labor. “If an agency has an application we can use, we’ll try to leverage it.”
In the meantime, Department of Labor has tackled some of the logical data center consolidation efforts and is already benefiting from efficiency gains in power usage and cooling, as well as further redundancy and protection. Additional work will involve the virtualization of servers, moving some services to the cloud, examining applications, and understanding where applications and services can be moved and better utilized.
According to these agency IT leaders, there are many approaches to sharing services and applications.
For example, there’s a lot of talk about private and public clouds but, as Tombe points out, there’s not a lot of talk about the “community cloud.” “There are opportunities for sharing with the NSA” and utilizing its intelligence cloud, says Tombe, adding that federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies could benefit from a shared cloud approach which would enable smaller organizations to “buy-in at a reasonable cost,” providing a great opportunity to utilize tools and resources they could not otherwise afford.
While organizations must continue to carefully assess, prioritize, and select applications based on their needs, sharing applications and resources across the federal government will open new doors and opportunities.
The Department of Interior is following such a path as it seeks to move beyond the initial lifting and shifting of data closets and into an era of increased effectiveness and efficiency.
Bernard Mazer, the agency’s Chief Information Officer, says his organization is “paying a lot of attention to application rationalization” as well as moving applications to core data centers and migrating others to the cloud. With FDCCI “we’re coming to grips with all aspects for better integration and alignment.”
Many agencies understand a key to success will involve adopting best practices for employing shared applications and resources as the federal government seeks to do more with less.
Tombe, however, cautions that the success of FDCCI “ultimately comes down to whether we are saving money and whether we are requiring less tax payer dollars to accomplish the levels of service that we need to provide to our end users.”