A federal order to consolidate data centers is not reaching its goals: of 24 bodies required to take part, only five have met any of the targets. The General Audit Office (GAO) has recommended the government should give its agencies more time to comply, and firm up its recommendations for data center monitoring - a target which no agency has met.

The GAO contacted all 24 agencies required to participate in the Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI), started by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in 2016. Two of them don’t actually own any data centers, but very few of the remaining 22 have met any of the five OMB targets for 2018. 

Fighting the hydra

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– Antonio del Pollaiolo / Google Art Project

The FITARA Act, passed in 2014, implemented the Obama administration’s DCCI (data center consolidation initiative) of 2010, but it is not clear how the Trump administration will handle the rest of the project. 

The Federal CIO issued the DCOI in 2016 to help agencies implement the FITARA requirements to close and consolidate data centers. During the first few years of FITARA, agencies had discovered they owned more data centers than expected, and the numbers of facilities subject to it actually went up at first, not down. 

OMB asked the GAO to assess the progress towards implementing FITARA this year, as the deadline of the end of 2018 approaches. GAO’s answer was that, although consolidation should be a cost saving exercise, agencies seem to be struggling to find the resources to do the work.

Although all agencies reported some successes, particularly with virtualizing servers and improving energy efficiency, most of them (17 agencies, according to the GAO release) have admitted they will not meet the targets by the end of October 1, 2018, when the original FITARA act expires.

If they don’t do the job by then, GAO points out, they may never do it: ”As most agencies lack plans to meet OMB’s data center optimization targets by the end of fiscal year 2018, it is increasingly likely that these agencies will require additional time to achieve the data center consolidation and optimization goals required by FITARA and OMB guidance,” said the GAO statement. 

Extending the deadline for these provisions would give agencies a chance of achieving the promised cost savings, GAO said: ”Until agencies improve their optimization progress, OMB’s $2.7 billion initiative-wide cost savings goal may not be achievable.”

There were particular problems reported in improving the utilization of data center facilities, and competing for labor resources. 

Automated monitoring for server utilization is particularly problematic: four bodies reported they had fully implemented the tools in their data center inventories by February 2017, but the GAO says no agency has met the target. Despite having the tools available, they are only in use at about three percent of the facilities covered, and none had fully documented plans to achieve the DCOI goals.

Part of the trouble is that the OMB has not made a formal requirement for automated monitoring, said the GAO. The report recommended that, as well as giving agencies more time, the OMB should also get the federal chief information officer to formally document a requirement for agencies to make plans to implement automated monitoring tools at the data centers they own.