GAO: Data center consolidation making progress, saving billions

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Federal agencies saved a billion dollars of taxpayer cash last year thanks to the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative requiring them to close inefficient or duplicative data centers, according to a Government Accountability Office report Thursday.

Fiscal year 2015’s billion-dollar savings was the largest annual total since the initiative’s inception in 2011, according to the report. Since then, 3,125 data centers closed, saving an estimated total of $2.8 billion.

Nearly nine in 10, or 84 percent, of these closures were accomplished by just four departments: Agriculture, Defense, Interior and Treasury — leading to savings of $2.4 billion for those agencies.

While all 24 agencies fell short of the Office of Management and Budget’s target to close 40 percent of “non-core centers” by fiscal 2015, they are on track to exceed their goals for the current year.

The figures come a day after a new Data Center Optimization Initiative — which will require stricter energy efficiency standards — was published in draft form for the first time.

[Read more: Federal data centers face new energy test]

Pushed by federal CIO Tony Scott, the new initiative will supersede the consolidation plan, requiring automated energy metering in all data centers and many centers to meet tough new power efficiency standards.

The new plan is expected to save an additional $1.4 billion by close of fiscal 2018, officials said. 

In comparison, according to GAO auditors, the existing consolidation initiative is expected to make additional savings of $5.4 billion by the end of  fiscal 2019, closing 2,708 more centers for a total savings since 2011 of $8.2 billion.

But this number may actually be an underestimate, since the GAO expects the planned savings to be higher than anticipated because 10 agencies did not fully develop their “cost savings goals,” the report said.

“Until agencies address their challenges and complete savings goals, the $8.2 billion in total savings may be understated and agencies will not be able to satisfy provisions of a recently enacted information technology acquisition reform law,” the report said.

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Congress, Government Accountability Office, Government IT News