OMB' Kent pushes new data center strategy

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The Office of Management and Budget's new Data Center Optimization Initiative strategy leans on shared services and more streamlined data centers.

The new DCOI policy replaces the version issued in 2016, but it keeps some of the proposed hurdles in place for agencies that want to set up their own data centers.

Federal CIO Suzette Kent explained the need for new policy at a June 26 House hearing, noting that information collected under the initial policy offered officials "a more clear understanding about closure process and the facility types that will continue to be needed for agency mission-specific reasons." The updated policy "focuses on enabling aggressive closure and ensuring efficient operations."

Kent said she's seeking two outcomes: maintaining "strong operating disciplines" at data centers that are essential to agency operations and ensuring "clarity of focus on closing those facilities which are not deemed as long-term mission critical."

The draft of the strategy released last fall proposed a freeze on spending for new and updated facilities. Agencies that wanted to get around the freeze were required to submit written justification for new or expanded data centers and explain why managed services or some other cloud-based solution did not meet the use case. Those restrictions remain.

The new policy aims to build acquisitions capacity, sharable requirements and procurement vehicles to help agencies automate their data center infrastructure. These efforts are being led by the governmentwide IT category manager at General Services Administration.

The new strategy also refines metrics on data center performance. While agencies had previously been able to average performance metrics across their entire range of data centers, the new strategy takes a dim view of averages. It said averages were sometimes "opaque" and did "not yield transparency into how effectively or efficiently an agency is running data centers, or whether the agency is improving over time."

The strategy called for OMB to "avoid using average for metrics whenever possible." It said it would identify metrics that agencies can use to show continuous improvements into the future.

It promised to recommend guidelines for reasonable performance on these metrics across the entire federal enterprise, based on real, collected data baselines.

Additionally, the new strategy tells agencies to focus on "general compute" data centers for consolidation or closing, since focusing on smaller facilities that are borderline data centers -- such as small server closets, telecom closets, individual print and file servers and single computers acting as servers -- has shown little impact on efficiencies or savings. Closing those kinds of small facilities may cost more than it's worth, it said.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.

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