Feds Continue Closing Datacenters in Major Cloud Shift


Some fascinating numbers are being reported from the federal government sector that indicate a shift to cloud technology in a cost-strategy effort. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the latest statistics last week in which 64 data centers have been shut down since August. Out of its 3100 data centers, the operation is aiming to shut down 40% of those towards a projected cost savings of five billion dollars. In all, some twelve hundred data centers will be part of the shutdown schedule, and 382 have already been shutdown since 2010. The scale of datacenters being shutdown cover the range and scale all the way up to massive compute centers some the size of hangars. The move to consolidate is an effort at modernization of government computing systems by utilizing more efficient technology, more energy-efficient equipment, and widespread adoption of cloud technologies. The transition includes virtualization and robust cloud technologies as a part of the revamp, adding flexibility and redundancy features that government infrastructures require.

Having spent some time in mission-critical federal infrastructure, the details I can share are limited – but I can state that these environments are built with the utmost attention to neutralizing all known possibilities that could affect the availability of the systems.  In other words, it is very redundant, over-redundant and some would say overbuilt. Frankly, that’s not a bad thing considering the systems in question drive so much critical operation. Still, the consolidation effort is not a foreign one, data centers move and collapse all the time, but not typically on this scale. With government compute systems, like government itself, are something that can easily expected to continue to grow without end.  That is what makes this consolidation so interesting. The actual process and moves it takes to get there are not unique in themselves, but there are many systems that could easily be classified as legacy, some of them are ultra-legacy. Therein, you can see the use case play out. Legacy systems are readily virtualized and surely a big part of this consolidation. The operational savings of becoming more and more virtualized are among the main advantages. Add to that the incredible flexibility and capability to support systems in a way that go beyond the redundant architecture on record, and you have a winning, compelling list of strategic advantages that the agencies will benefit from.

It can also be said with so many parties involved that have some sort of stake in the decommissioning of data centers across the land, closing this many centers is definitely not an easy endeavor. It is telling of an underlying organizational will that is required to make big changes like this and quite frankly, a lesson that other organizations can benefit from. When building an internal cloud or leveraging advantages in certain cases of an external cloud, or even something in-between, the vision on how it needs to get there, and when is critically important. When this consolidation is said and done, it will be remarkable to see some of the achievements in review.

This continues a sustained initiative to push more IT into cloud computing scenarios. With cloud-first principles, the government is moving towards cloud infrastructure for their extensive computing tasks and in turn, paralleling the private industry. Cloud computing has truly become just compute.