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FITARA 8.0: 3 Steps to Improve your Data Center Consolidation Score

In a previous blog post, my colleague and I covered the recently published FITARA Scorecard 8.0. More specifically, we highlighted that government agencies have opportunities for significant improvements in two focal categories: risk management and data center consolidation.

Last time, we laid out the next steps that agencies should take to improve their risk management score. For this week’s blog post, I continued my collaboration with my colleague Curt Cote, a recognized a leader in federal category management, to provide three key next steps for improving data center consolidation efforts.

Did you know that the federal government spends over $5B a year on physical data centers? For nearly a decade the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has pushed federal agencies to reduce the government’s data center footprint through the Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI). DCOI was established as policy on August 1, 2016, and superseded the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI) from 2010. The Data Center Consolidation dimension of the FITARA scorecard is designed to measure an agency’s progress toward this goal.

Historically, agencies have struggled to make progress in this category, with half of all agencies scoring “C” or lower. Looking forward, OMB is continuing to raise the bar through new guidance on data center consolidation issued on June 2019, which will take effect in the 2020 FITARA scorecard. Agencies should be allocating time and resources to this important category to ensure that they receive the best possible outcome for FITARA 9.0 and beyond.

We have laid out three key steps agencies should take to improve the management of their data centers and improve their FITARA grade.

Step 1: Assess Current State

The first step is to assess the agency’s current state regarding data centers and their use:

Take inventory: Conduct a census of all physical data centers, including the numbers and types of servers in each center, and their use. Remember: OMB is changing its definition of “Data Centers.” Previously, even a server or two in a “closet” were considered data centers. Now, OMB has defined a set of criteria agencies should use to determine what is a data center and what isn’t. The criteria, which may again change, are found in each agency’s Integrated Data Collection instructions.

Deploy automated monitoring tools: These tools often referred to as “crawlers”, are used to monitor the utilization of servers. This action will reap immediate visibility benefits and help to spur the prioritization of decommissioning or merging underutilized devices.

Synthesize your data: Analyze data to identify the number of servers in use, server utilization patterns, overall maintenance call of utilized servers, and which use cases cannot be moved to the cloud for validated security or other reasons.

Step 2: Develop a Holistic Strategy

Now that you have a better understanding of what active data center your agency has, you’re now able to develop a holistic data center strategy. It’s okay to start small and manageable. But when developing your strategy, it is crucial that you consider some key aspects including:

Cloud: Government and commercial data centers are increasingly using cloud infrastructure to lower costs and provide the ability to scale up and down based on variable demand. Determine the degree to which your agency will implement cloud solutions. Be realistic and consider technology and security requirements, concerns with data rights, the skills of IT staff, hidden costs, and cultural barriers. Also, don’t forget to look at the software license requirements.

Templates: Given that it’s likely your data center footprint is geographically diverse, develop a simple template to collect data from across the agency to facilitate centralized reporting.

Methodologies: Review savings methodologies for the Data Center Optimization Initiative to ensure standards are consistently applied across offices, locations, and reporting mechanisms.

Step 3: Prioritize Changes and Update Recent Data to the Dashboard

Large-scale changes to an agency’s data center footprint involve managing a plethora of moving pieces. IT architecture, workforce skills, security considerations, acquisition regulations, and dozens of other considerations need to be addressed and planned for. This cannot be done at once. So, prioritize and start with the steps that will have the biggest impact and that can be achieved with the least level of complexity.

And, as we’ve discussed, it’s very important that you report your progress. Remember: Your FITARA scorecard grade is based on what you report. Be sure to upload your data in a timely manner.

By taking these steps, your organization will not only improve your Data Center Consolidation grade on the FITARA scorecard, but you’ll also improve your ability to mitigate costs and varying demand on your servers. Building a forward-looking data center now strategy can position you for success for the data-focused future.

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