The federal government is on pace to close at least 1,200 of its 3,100 data centers by the end of 2015, Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel announced in a blog posted this week on the Office of Management and Budget website.

If completed on time, the closures would achieve the Obama administration’s goal of shutting down at least 40 percent of all data centers.

VanRoekel said the feds’ remaining data centers will have to become more efficient. The interagency group leading the ongoing data consolidation is focusing on efficiency in the data centers that are retained, he said. “Accordingly, agencies will focus on computing power and density instead of capacity, taking advantage of current technologies that deliver more bang for the buck,” VanRoekel wrote.

In the blog, VanRoekel said the U.S. Census Bureau is one of the agencies on the leading edge of the consolidation, having already consolidated two major data centers, which will avoid $1.7 million in operating costs beginning in 2012.

In the months since the feds announced the major consolidation last July, officials have continued to raise the bar. In July, 373 facilities were tapped for closure, with a target of 800 total by 2015. The number increased in this week’s announcement, which takes into account federal data centers of less than 500 square feet. As part of the process, federal agencies are planning to close 525 data centers by 2012.

Cloud computing and other emerging technologies will be utilized in order to improve efficiency in the data centers. Officials believe consolidation ultimately will save billions of dollars.

But the effort hasn’t been entirely smooth. A Government Accountability Office report in July found that several of the 24 agencies slated to participate had not yet fully inventoried their data center assets nor turned in a cost-benefit analysis.