Select data centers should specialize in shared services, says director of consolidation effort

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Select data centers across the U.S. should provide governmentwide shared services like archiving or mainframe-as-a-service, according to the director of the General Services Administration’s consolidation initiative.

All agencies need to archive data, and a single service out of one data center would simplify things, Thomas Santucci said Wednesday at the 930gov Cloud Computing Conference. He said he was offering his own opinion and not speaking on behalf of GSA.

The director of GSA‘s Data Center and Cloud Optimization Initiative added that many agencies still have mainframes that should be consolidated into a mainframe-as-a-service (MFaaS) within a single data center to leverage limited resources and Common Business Oriented Language (COBOL) writers. MFaaS is a subscription service where the computing environment continues to behave much like a traditional mainframe, but the customer can scale usage up or down based on what they need.

“I don’t think they’re going away any time soon,” Santucci said about mainframes. “I’ve been hearing since the 1990s that they’re going to go away, but they’re still here and they’re still providing valuable services to the public today.”

‘Not in the federal government’s core business’

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2020 extended the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative through Oct. 1, 2022. Of the 24 Chief Financial Officers Act agencies expected to comply, 12 have met their data center closure goals and 10 no longer have any data centers at all — meaning that all of their core computing tasks are handled in the cloud.

“We want to continue to reduce the inventory mainly because building, maintaining and operating a data center is not in the federal government’s core business,” Santucci said. “Not to mention data centers are energy intensive facilities; they’re 10 to 100 times more energy intensive than any office space.”

Government is instead leaving the work to privately owned data centers that can meet the compute demands without the power and cooling constraints.

While the number of federal data centers declines, the Department of Energy‘s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimates the number of total data centers in the U.S. will grow tenfold by 2028.

The news comes as agencies lean on data centers more during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Data centers have become the focal point for providing truly resilient service,” Santucci said.

The pandemic forced resistant agencies to embrace telework and has made leaders realize the federal workforce can work remotely more efficiently, Santucci said.

He wouldn’t speculate on how long GSA would continue agencywide telework, however.

“We are well positioned to continue to telework as long as necessary,” Santucci said. “We are one of the best positioned agencies out there to telework, and we were always telework friendly.”

-In this Story-

COBOL, coronavirus, Data centers, Department of Energy (DOE), Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative, General Services Administration (GSA), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, National Defense Authorization Act, shared services, telework
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