NASCIO study: Merging data facilities among vital tasks

State chief information officers agree that consolidating enterprise data centers is their most important task for the coming year, according to a study released today by the National Association of State CIOs (NASCIO).

The NASCIO study relied on responses from 29 states. The association reported a strong trend toward "states consolidating their computing assets into raised-floor, secured, centralized data center facilities."

"Many states are utilizing remote, backup data center facilities for the purpose of backup and disaster recovery and business continuity," the association said.

State governments define "enterprise data center" differently, the NASCIO study found. But the varying definitions did not cloud the universal nature of the consolidation trend, the association said.

The NASCIO report described the status of the survey group's consolidation programs:
  • Completed: 14 percent, or four out of 29
  • In progress or partially complete: 38 percent, or 11 of 29
  • Planning phase: 24 percent, or seven of 29
  • Proposed: 17 percent, or five of 29
  • No activity: 7 percent, or two of 29.

State information technology organizations seek to consolidate their data facilities to improve their service delivery, reinforce their ability to protect systems and the data they contain, facilitate the re-engineering of business processes, eliminate redundant capacity, reduce costs and streamline IT functions, according to NASCIO.

States responding to the survey reported that they had between one and 100 data centers, and that the median number of centers was 15. The survey authors cautioned that variations in how states defined data centers caused part of the wide variation in the center counts.

A high percentage of the states responding to the survey, 86.2 percent, said they planned to launch server virtualization projects as new technology associated with their enterprise data center consolidation projects.

Of respondents, 48.3 percent favored use of open-source technology in their data center consolidation efforts, NASCIO found.

State agencies also named storage area networks, consolidated storage purchases, service oriented architecture, virtual servers provisioning and application hosting as other new technologies they planned to deploy in the consolidation projects.

NASCIO asked state IT leaders what obstacles or challenges they faced as a result of their data center consolidation projects. The most common responses were:
  • Workforce resistance to change: 89.7 percent
  • Agencies' desire to remain autonomous: 86 percent
  • Problems experienced in moving localized devices away from current customer base: 48.3 percent
  • Backlash when consolidation didn't meet specific business needs: 20.7 percent
  • Unexpectedly high costs: 17.2 percent
  • Seeking exemptions from state statutory and regulatory requirements: 17.2 percent
  • Seeking exemptions from federal statutory and regulatory requirements: 17.2 percent and
  • Failure to identify and adhere to service levels: 3.4 percent.

As for the motives driving the states' push to consolidate their data centers, the most important reason respondents cited was to improve disaster recovery, a factor named in 82.8 percent of cases. The goals of improving data replication, redundancy and fault tolerance were cited second, in 75.9 percent of cases, while cost savings came in third at 65.5 percent of responses.

Wilson P. Dizard III writes for Government Computer News, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.

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