The Office of Management and Budget released an updated Data Center Optimization Initiative June 25, directing federal agencies to focus on the consolidation of “general compute” data centers over smaller, “non-tiered” facilities.

Across the government, agencies have seen the largest cost savings in consolidation of their larger data centers, the memo said, while focusing on non-tiered facilities, like server or telecom closets and single computers acting as servers, produced minimal savings.

The cost of consolidation for small facilities "generally incurs large costs for agencies, with little or no benefit from efficiencies gained,” according to the memorandum from federal CIO Suzette Kent.

“As a result, OMB will no longer require agencies to consolidate these server closets, meet optimization targets, or include them in their inventory submissions,” the memo said.

The updated memo also prohibits agencies from expanding or building new data centers without prior approval from OMB. Additionally, OMB directed agencies to consolidate and close existing data centers in alignment with the new Cloud Smart strategy released June 24. The new cloud strategy directs federal agencies to emphasize security, procurement and workforce in the cloud adoption process.

The new optimization directive also requires federal agencies to adopt virtualization or containerization — technology that allows users to run an application or operating system virtually from a single piece of hardware — on all new applications. As part of new reporting requirements, agencies will have to report the amount of servers or mainframes that are hosting virtualized or containerized systems in their agency-managed data centers.

OMB also announced that it will no longer set a target goal for energy efficiency at government data centers. Instead, OMB will continue to track energy efficiency as part of inventory reporting solely for statistical purposes. The energy efficiency measurement, known as power usage effectiveness, was “not always appropriate for comparison” because of disparities in energy use created by “redundancy, geographic location, weather, time of year, and even building construction" at government data centers.

“(T)here is an upper bound on the return on investment gained through this optimization,” the memo said. “Instead, agencies are encouraged, but not required, to report cost savings and avoidance through efficient energy usage and improvements as part of their data center strategic plans.”

OMB said that it prioritizes efforts to consolidate in the following order:

  • Consolidation and Closure
  • Optimization
  • Virtualization
  • Availability
  • Energy Metering
  • Server Utilization

This new memorandum replaced a previous DCOI from 2016 and will sunset Sept. 30, 2020.

Andrew Eversden covers all things defense technology for C4ISRNET. He previously reported on federal IT and cybersecurity for Federal Times and Fifth Domain, and worked as a congressional reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune. He was also a Washington intern for the Durango Herald. Andrew is a graduate of American University.

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