Do government datacenters deserve awards for their consolidation progress?

Awards to recognize progress are nice, but how about we try to determine if real world progress is being made?

MeriTalk, the website dedicated to Government IT has announced their Optimize Datacenter Awards to recognize those government agencies that have demonstrated a sustainable approach to datacenter consolidation and management. They are planning on offering awards in three categories:

  • Excellence in Data Center Consolidation Leadership
  • Innovative Application of Technology to Support Data Center Consolidation
  • Data Center Consolidation Program with Maximum Savings for the Organization

As the awards are focused on government programs, they are only open to government agencies and employees involved in the current datacenter consolidation plans that have been mandated across all Federal agencies. The published criteria for the awards are focused on the types of conditions one would expect; how well the programs worked, how well all stakeholders were involved, sustainability of the approach, etc., with the codicil that the comparisons are strictly for public-sector operations.

And therein lies the rub; the metric for the awards isn't set against what is possible to be done, but simply how well the nominee has done compared to other public-sector efforts. While I applaud MeriTalk for making the effort to recognize the progress that is being made, all of the publicly announced results I have seen so far are less than impressive, even within the narrow announced goals of the consolidation program.

For the government to truly take the leadership role in consolidation and optimization that the original announcement seemed to be positioning as the Administration's effort in this field, the performance of the consolidation and optimization program needs to be measured in more than just the number of datacenters closed or the so far pitifully small savings that have been achieved when compared to the $70+ billion dollar budget for Federal IT spending.

Because the official definition of a datacenter as used by the consolidation effort includes spaces as small as a departmental server closet (see http://www.cio.gov/documents/FDCCI-FAQs.doc) looking at gross numbers for "datacenters closed or consolidated" can be very misleading to the public or anyone who has a more traditional understanding of what a datacenter physically represents.

Show me a 10% cut in overall datacenter expenditures with no reduction in capabilities or a 10% increase in work performed achieved through operational efficiencies while consolidating excess or legacy equipment and I'll be impressed.