Data center consolidation pays off, feds find

Republicans and Democrats in Congress rarely seem to agree on anything anymore, but top members from both sides Friday offered qualified support for efforts to consolidate federal data centers.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress rarely seem to agree on anything anymore, but top members from both sides Friday offered qualified support for efforts to consolidate federal data centers.

The action was prompted by a federal watchdog agency report that says U.S. data center consolidation efforts are paying off and have delivered savings of $1.1 billion.

Most of these savings, $850 million or 74% of the total, were the result of efforts by the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Treasury, according to the General Accountability Office, which measured savings from the federal data-center consolidation effort from 2011 through 2013.

In total, government agencies have counted 9,658 data centers. The government definition of a data center is broad and includes small operations tucked into oversized closets. The government has closed 10% of its data centers and plans to shut 44% of them by the end 2015.

Overall, all the participating federal agencies expect to save $3.3 billion by the end of 2015, which is about $300 million more than the White House's original savings estimate.

The GAO's results were such that leaders and ranking members of oversight committees sent out a joint statement on the effort. Democrats and Republican leaders welcomed the GAO's findings, although they all agreed that more can be done.

"While the report is welcome news, the federal government is still wasting as much as 25% of an estimated $80 billion in annual federal IT expenditures through a lack of consolidation," said U.S. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the subcommittee on Government Operations. That waste is the result of "the use and acquisition of outmoded technologies and a failure to utilize cost savings measures," he said.

U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said the GAO report "underscores that more savings are possible in data center consolidation than the administration has estimated."

Indeed, the savings might actually be higher, according to the GAO. Six agencies that closed 67 data centers alone reported limited or no savings because they couldn't estimate a baseline cost.

U.S Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, said the report underscores a need for improving reporting.

"As the saying goes, you can't manage what you can't measure," Carper said. "Without accurate tracking and reporting of performance measures, we run the risk of not achieving the full potential savings."

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