4 Steps To Optimize Your Federal Government Data Center

How to accelerate IT modernization and stay ahead of policy shifts

David Peed

Many of our government customers are eager to get out of the “data center business” and return their full attention to serving the public interest. Evolving federal data center optimization initiatives and digital mandates are driving today’s government agencies toward data center modernization, but monolithic IT infrastructures are holding them back. A consistent interconnection and data center platform can be a catalyst to not only achieve today’s IT optimization metrics, but to gear up to meet tomorrow’s increasing public demand for critical information and services.

How we got here

Back in 2010, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) launched the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI) to achieve the following goals:

  • Reduce the overall energy and real estate footprint of government data centers
  • Lower the cost of hardware, software, and operations
  • Increase overall IT security
  • Shift IT investments to more efficient computing platforms and technologies.

Under the current White House administration, FDCCI was revamped in 2016 as the Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI) and revisited again in 2019 by the newly incoming U.S. Federal Chief Information Officer, Suzette Kent. DCOI, FITARA and the current Cloud Smart policy (a revision of the 2010 Cloud First policy) have set a new IT strategy course for government agencies.[i]

It is also important to note that in December 2014, the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA)[ii] was signed by Congress. FITARA requires agencies to provide some accountability against their data center optimization goals, including submitting annual reports on multi-year data center consolidation and optimization, cost savings and performance metrics (i.e., server and facility utilization and automation, energy usage and power metering, and virtualization). For example, the chart below from the DCOI Optimization Dashboard illustrates the government’s progress on server virtualization through Q2 2019. [iii]

Source: DCOI Optimization Dashboard

Data center consolidation, optimization and automation emerge as top government priorities

In her recent 2019 draft DCOI memorandum, Kent included the following key priorities for consolidating, optimizing and automating Federal data centers in accordance with DCOI and FITARA:

Pursue Next-Level Modernization: Kent states that, “The OMB now will focus on targeted improvements in key areas where agencies can make meaningful improvements and achieve further cost savings through optimization and closures, as well as driving further maturity in IT modernization.” As part of their data center consolidation and IT modernization efforts, agencies need to increase their usage of cloud platforms along with virtualization technologies to enable the more efficient and cost-effective pooling of storage, network and computer resources, and dynamic allocation on-demand for resource sharing. This will provide new avenues for reducing application, system and database inventories to essential levels.

Optimize “General Compute” Data Centers: Agencies have seen the greatest gains in cost savings and optimization in their larger, dedicated data centers that are providing general compute resources to organizations. As a result, agencies should focus their efforts on “general compute” servers and systems – those hosting business applications that are largely hardware agnostic – rather than special purpose systems.

Embrace Automation: Agencies should continue to replace manual collections and reporting of systems, software, and hardware inventory housed within data centers with automated monitoring, inventory and management tools (e.g., Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM)).

And though not spelled out specifically in Kent’s updated DCOI policy memo, the Federal Government’s recent mandate around using artificial intelligence (AI) is also a critical digital transformation initiative, as outlined in our blog on 3 Steps to Meeting Government Artificial Intelligence Mandates.

These DCOI priorities and FITARA metrics are forcing organizations to seriously reevaluate their IT acquisition and infrastructure roadmaps, including strategies for on-premises and colocation data centers and cloud.

Modernizing the monolith

To achieve these mandated data center optimization and modernization goals, Federal agencies are embracing more modern, digitalized alternatives where they can gain the benefits of:

  • A higher degree of scale and flexibility by deploying system and network virtualization, hyperscale cloud computing and IT resources at the edge.
  • Tighter control of data and applications and mission outcomes by maintaining the chain of custody of intellectual property, leveraging AI and improving digital capabilities.
  •  Greater cost savings and operational efficiencies by moving from CAPEX to OPEX, reducing the data center footprint, and using DCIM tools to better manage energy consumption and identify potential issues.
  •  Increased security by mitigating cyber-attacks by countries and individuals and preventing digital espionage while maintaining data privacy and compliance regulations.

A vendor-neutral interconnection and data center platform is one of the most powerful moves you can make to accelerate your government data center IT infrastructure modernization effort and begin experiencing these advantages in your organization.

The following steps are best practices that our customers are using today to build more digital-ready IT infrastructures. Government agencies can leverage these best practices to efficiently and cost-effectively meet their missions.

Step 1: Place network hubs on Platform Equinix® and access more than 1,800 network providers and Network Edge virtual network services in strategic metros around the world. This will enable you to optimize your intra- and inter-agency network infrastructures with more cost-effective and flexible, high-bandwidth, low-latency connectivity.

Step 2: Create hybrid and multicloud infrastructures using software-defined, virtual connections via Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric™ (ECX Fabric™) to allow easy access to hyperscale cloud platforms (e.g., AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, IBM Cloud) in minutes. ECX Fabric also provides the consistent performance, security and availability needed for sharing agency resources and data that is not possible over the public internet. It also enables direct and secure access to dense ecosystems of partners from both the private and public sectors.

Step 3: Deploy vendor-agnostic, distributed security controls at the edge, such as Equinix SmartKey™, which provides SaaS-based secure key management for data privacy and protection across IT organization’s on-premises, colocation and cloud infrastructures. This delivers the consistent and secure encryption capabilities that government agencies require for their critical data assets as a more cost-effective cloud-based service.

Step 4: Distribute automated DCIM monitoring and analytics reporting tools, such as Equinix SmartView, for better energy efficiency and power management across multiple agency data centers on Platform Equinix.

Check out the U.S. Federal Government Digital Edge Playbook, to develop your own strategic roadmap to create a modernized, digital-ready ready government IT infrastructure.

You may also be interested in reading our series on Federal Government IT trends.

 

[i] U.S. Federal DCOI and Cloud Smart Initiative

[ii] Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act

[iii] DCOI Optimization Dashboard

 

David Peed
David Peed Vice President & General Manager at Equinix