Data centers closing as part of federal IT overhaul

April 27, 2011

The government is closing 137 of about 2,100 data centers this year as part of an effort to close 800 of the facilities by 2015.

Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra said Wednesday that the government has already closed 39 data centers. Fifteen of the shuttered centers are based in the Washington area. One-third of the closed facilities belonged to NASA.

“We’re cracking down on duplicative, underutilized assets across the federal government,” he said at a conference with federal agency and industry officials.

The consolidation plan is part of a broader federal information technology reform effort launched by Kundra. Last year, he released a 25-point implementation plan meant to help agencies improve management of their IT programs as well as their collaboration with industry.

As part of the data center consolidation, the government plans to close an additional 98 facilities — including at least 25 based locally — by the end of the year. About half of the identified facilities are Defense Department sites, and their locations were not disclosed.

Among the local closings is the 15,000-square-foot Department of Health and Human Services center in Rockville, which Kundra said generates about $1.2 million in annual electricity costs. The center’s servers will be moved to other data centers, he said. The list also includes sites in Arlington County, Lorton, Dulles, Bethesda, Greenbelt and the District.

Kundra’s implementation strategy aggressively promotes use of cloud, or Web-based, computing. Cloud computing uses a common IT infrastructure, which advocates say means the government can reduce costs while improving flexibility and ease of use for federal employees.

Last year, the Office of Management and Budget unveiled the government’s new “cloud-first” policy, which requires agencies to use cloud computing when a good opportunity exists.

The focus on cloud computing has set off a frenzy of industry competition. The promise of new work has attracted traditional government contractors, as well as major commercial players such as Google and Amazon.

The implementation plan required agencies to move three services into the cloud within 18 months and at least one within a year. Both the General Services Administration and the Agriculture Department have announced plans to shift their e-mail programs to the cloud.

Kundra said Wednesday that 15 federal agencies have identified 950,000 e-mail boxes across 100 e-mail systems to move to the cloud. The GSA will release a $2.5 billion procurement next month to consolidate the systems in the cloud.

“This represents a huge opportunity for everybody who is in this room . . . to compete for this new business,” he said.

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