What Obama Did for Tech: Data Center Consolidation

Slashing the number of federally run data centers from 2,100 to 1,300 was an efficiency move intended to reduce the $600 billion spent by the federal government on IT infrastructure in the past decade.

by / September 28, 2016

Editor's note: This story is part of a six-part series on how Obama has, over the last eight years, elevated the profile of IT in the public sector. He taught government how to ride the technology bicycle, so to speak. A future president who neglects technology won’t be able to make it forget the skills taught through the influence of Silicon Valley and startup culture, said Aneesh Chopra, the nation’s first chief technology officer.

Another major element of former federal CIO Vivek Kundra’s 5-point plan to reform federal IT was to slash the number of federally run data centers from 2,100 to 1,300. The efficiency move was intended to reduce the $600 billion spent by the federal government on IT infrastructure in the past decade. Newer technologies, like the cloud, made rows and rows of servers in a data center, running day and night, largely unnecessary relics of an earlier time, not to mention physical monuments of waste and excess too often associated with federal government agencies.

In 2013, CIO Steven VanRoekel added steam to the original consolidation goal by refining the incentive structure for the closures, eyeing billions in savings while focusing on service delivery and employee productivity. According to VanRoekel, an estimated $2.5 billion was identified in potential savings between fiscal 2013 and 2015.

While it is unclear exactly who is leading the consolidation charge, the federal government has certainly made a budgetary case for tidying up IT infrastructure using new technologies. The rush away from large, government-owned data centers is well illustrated by Washington state, stuck with a multimillion dollar LEED-certified data center with no tenants. Before and after the feds, many other states are also involved in consolidating their physical IT footprint.

Eyragon Eidam Web Editor

Eyragon Eidam is the Web editor for Government Technology magazine, after previously serving as  assistant news editor and covering such topics as legislation, social media and public safety. He can be reached at eeidam@erepublic.com.