Navy orders a halt to procurement of computer centers

By Marjorie Censer
Monday, January 24, 2011; 8

The Navy has ordered its procurement officers to stop buying computer servers or adding new data centers, a move that comes as the federal government prepares to announce agency-specific targets for reducing its information technology infrastructure.

Vivek Kundra, the federal chief information officer, has called for a dramatic consolidation of the government's data centers, and federal agencies have submitted their specific reduction targets, according to the Office of Management and Budget. The objectives are slated to be announced when the fiscal 2012 budget is released in February.

Already there are signs that agencies are taking steps to meet these goals, especially after Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates complained earlier this month that he was not satisfied with the Pentagon's progress.

In a recent memo, the Navy halted purchasing servers, making server upgrades or adding data centers without a waiver.

"I expect this type of action to be followed elsewhere," said Trey Hodgkins, vice president for national security and procurement policy at IT trade association TechAmerica. "If you shut off the spigot and don't let anyone buy those kinds of things, you at least begin to get a handle on the propagation of the activity and you can begin to move in the other direction."

The Navy also said in the directive it expects designated commands to come up with plans to reduce their data centers by 25 percent and increase server utilization by at least 40 percent. Details of the directive were reported earlier by Federal News Radio.

Last fall, Kundra reported that the government has just shy of 2,100 data centers -- a number that covers owned and leased centers larger than 500 square feet. The Defense Department had the most with 772, while the State Department came in second with 361.

Kundra has said that reducing the number of data centers will result in savings on energy, real estate and operations. Additionally, the initiative is intended to push agencies into adopting cloud -- or Web-based -- computing platforms, which the federal government expects to improve efficiency and save money.

The Navy is "trying to be more aggressive" in tackling the data center consolidation urged by Kundra and Gates, said Janice Haith, director of the assessment and compliance division in the Navy's information dominance office.

"It's time to make hard decisions," Haith said. "The Navy leadership embraced this back in November, and now we're reinforcing it."

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