As Federal agencies struggle to meet Office of Management and Budget’s data center optimization targets, the General Services Administration has stepped up its efforts to support agencies as they work to consolidate, migrate, and close data centers.

GSA’s Office of Governmentwide Policy, designated last year as the managing partner for OMB’s Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI), has published a comprehensive guide to help agencies with data center optimization programs.

The 21-page “DCOI Guide for Data Center Migration, Consolidation, and Closure” is intended to provide a new framework for data center optimization efforts. Its audience should include agency CIO offices, agency project-management teams, data center operations groups, and data center migration or consolidation teams, all of which should be working seamlessly together under a wide-ranging project-management structure, GSA officials said.

“Data center migrations and consolidations are complex and require committed organizational management,” the authors of the guide state. “Transitions require a significant amount of coordination and communication at several levels of the agency to be implemented as well.”

According to the guide, a successful data center optimization program will have a “well-defined organizational structure with clear lines of communication between stakeholders, such as the steering committee, data center management team and the facilities management team.”

At the same time, agencies going through the optimization process can’t ignore the everyday requirements of end-users. “Agencies must be continuously aware of both their hardware and software needs as they move forward through any of these processes, with specific attention paid to mission critical end-user applications.”

Critical steps in the process should include a full assessment of the current data center environment, an analysis of issues and alternatives for data center consolidation, thorough planning for migration, scheduling with a view of avoiding peak production periods for program users, full-destination data center preparation, application migrations, decommissioning of the source data center components, and ensuring successful operations at the destination data center.

In addition to organization and communications, the document gives stakeholders detailed guidance on streamlining the environment, enterprise data center discovery, data center optimization plans, the application and server migration phase, system decommissioning, and data center closures.

From a broad perspective, GSA’s guide represents part of a “fresh approach” to optimizing data centers as agencies implement the data center provisions of the Federal Information Technology Reform Act (FITARA). OMB’s DCOI requires agencies to develop and report on strategies to consolidate and optimize existing facilities, achieve cost savings and transition to a more efficient infrastructure, such as cloud services and inter-agency shared services.

“Few would debate that if we had the opportunity to build the Federal government’s IT infrastructure from the ground up today, it would certainly look very different than the current state,” said Dominic Sale, a deputy associate administrator in GSA’s Office of Governmentwide Policy. “The DCOI is an ambitious effort to optimize and innovate more than 10,000 data centers operated by Federal agencies.”

The DCOI is the next logical step in the history of Federal data centers, following the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI) launched by OMB in 2010, to achieve cost savings through consolidation of redundant Federal data centers.

Still, meeting optimization objectives has proved difficult for agencies. The Government Accountability Office recently reported that of the 24 agencies required to participate in DCOI, 22 agencies had shown only “limited progress” toward OMB’s 2018 performance targets. Moreover, 17 of the 22 agencies said they could not meet OMB’s goals before the end of September 2018.

However, GSA officials believe that the new guide will provide a solid framework to help improve agency optimization planning. “This effort should result in more consolidated, rationalized, professional and efficient data center operations for the government,” the guide concluded.

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