By now, it's well-known that data centers are costly facilities that can require significant funds and resources to maintain. The U.S. government has made strides to improve its footprint with the federal data center consolidation initiative that aims to have 3,800 data centers closed and 1.7 million square feet consolidated by the end of this year. However, while the effort began in 2011, there is still a considerable amount of work for organizations to do to meet these goals.
Servers still draining resources
One of the most common criminals in the data center space is underutilized equipment. This hardware not only takes up space, but if it's running it also increases power and cooling costs to maintain this environment. In fact, two separate studies found that 30 percent of physical servers are sitting comatose, and have not delivered information or computing services in six months or more, GCN reported. This means that there are 10 million servers worldwide that are being underutilized, amounting to $30 billion in hardware expenses alone.
These costs are significant, especially as organizations struggle to pay for and maintain the power, cooling and operational efficiency of their data centers. The biggest reason for this massive oversight might simply be a lack of communication between IT infrastructure teams. This could result in idle servers that businesses aren't even aware of, racking up further expenses. However, some government organizations have found a solution to this issue.
"One way government IT departments are addressing the issue of idle computers is distributed computing – linking computers to work as if they were a single machine," GCN stated. "Scaling up the number of computers working together increases the processing power, thereby reducing or eliminating the need for separate computers for different tasks."
Benefits reaped from consolidation
Although many government agencies still have work to do on their data center consolidation, some have already seen advantages from their efforts. StateTech gave the example of Oklahoma, which has more than 170 agencies. In 2011, the state had 129 different email systems and 30 data center and computer room locations across these disparate organizations. However, by consolidating and leveraging virtualization and cloud services, Oklahoma is on its way to improving its efficiency. As of May 2015, the consolidation was about 55 percent complete and had already saved $77 million. Other benefits from these efforts included enhancement of security, performance, disaster recovery and IT services.
By consolidating data center sprawl, organizations are also able to pursue other initiatives like citizen engagement and improvement of public services. Deployment of mobile applications and other resources can significantly increase with better server utilization and the cost savings reaped from hardware consolidation.
"These efforts have allowed us to offer agencies and their users services and capabilities they could never afford or put together themselves," Dustin Crossfield, Oklahoma director of technology services, told StateTech. "Their uptime and disaster recovery is far superior to what it was before. Security has improved vastly, thanks to a centralized security operations center that monitors and protects all traffic coming in and out of consolidated agency systems. A small agency is not likely to have a database developer to create a mobile app. Now, it can come to us.