Korea sets the standard for government datacenters

Korea's government IT consolidation program shows real, documented, cost savings and IT benefits.

While the US government continues to talk about the potential savings from datacenter consolidation, Korea has quietly gone ahead and done what the US government has been only talking about; consolidating the IT sources of major government departments and providing an integrated management system for those resources.

Established six years ago, the Korean National Computing & Information Agency (NCIA) supports not only government IT consolidation efforts but also the efforts to export the Korean Government Integrated Data Center (GIDC) model. The UN has recognized the value and efficiency of what the NCIA has accomplished, ranking Korea #1 in their 2010 e-Government survey (out of the 192 countries rated).

A large component of their e-government effort is moving services to the cloud. The goals with the Government Cloud Computing Service (G Cloud) are very ambitions. They plan to move 50% of the central government computing services from their current traditional datacenter infrastructure to the G Cloud and move their open source software adoption rate up to 40%. The expectation is that this process will result in reducing operational costs by 30%.

Smaller governments than Korea's have taken an active interest in what Korea has done in terms of organizing and enabling their governmental computing infrastructure, hence Korea's interest in exporting the model as technologies supported by their home-grown IT vendors. The NCIA, with their six years of experience in this streamlining of governmental IT, has a good grasp on the potential issues, ranging from security, an area where they have continue to improve and develop world-class standards and methodologies for securing these types of networks against attack, to the harsh economic realities of consolidation, where a certain percentage of the cost savings comes in the form of salaries, because people are laid-off and departmental personnel budgets are reduced. This is a particularly hard lesson to learn in a country with an entrenched bureaucracy such as the US, where the IT consolidation efforts have, for the most part, not decreased staffing levels despite the closure of existing physical datacenters.

These savings aren't just projections at this point; the NCIA has documented almost $60 million in savings. This might seem like a small number when compared to the IT expenditures of the US government, but if you consider it a trial program in a function business it can be lauded as no little success.  There is much the US federal IT infrastructure can learn from what the Koreans have been doing; whether anyone will actually take a good look at their successes is another story.