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US Government Data Center Consolidation Behind Schedule, Cost Savings Uncertain 95

itwbennett writes "The goal of saving $3 billion by closing 1253 data centers is 'very realistic,' says David Powner, director of IT management issues at the U.S. Government Accountability Office — except that agencies haven't been able to track cost savings for the initiative. Eighteen months from the 2015 deadline, 'we have no idea how much we've saved the taxpayers,' said Steve O'Keeffe, founder of MeriTalk, an online community for government IT issues. This isn't the first snag in the project. Almost a year ago, Slashdot reported that the project was woefully behind schedule." The government released a summary of what data they do have (PDF), and at least the DoD expects to save $575 million next fiscal year. Also see the full GAO report.
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US Government Data Center Consolidation Behind Schedule, Cost Savings Uncertain

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm guessing that they'd be able to track those metrics very well if they tried. My experience with the PHB management types is that they don't want to do anything unless they absolutely have to, especially if that something would create accountability for them or anyone on their teams.
    • by alen ( 225700 )

      i worked for an DoD agency 13 years ago for a year. We had a main NT domain with a child domain for each of the 6 regional offices

      the admin in one of the offices refused to set up a trust between his domain and the main domain. for some reason no one could make him do it. i bet same here. some of the admins in the smaller offices are refusing to go along with this

      • Sure, any organization has internal conflicts of interest when somebody is tasked to train their own replacement etc. That half billion in savings is mainly going to be salaries after all.
      • Re:!able, unwilling (Score:4, Informative)

        by NecroPuppy ( 222648 ) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @01:51PM (#43733645) Homepage

        I'm (sorta) one of those admins.

        It's not that local sites are refusing to go along with the data center consolidation, as we have to justify anything that stays here instead of moving to the data center 400 miles away, it's that in a lot of cases the data center people are saying, "You have to move", and then not understanding the reasons why we can't.

        Whether or not this lack of understanding is deliberate or not, I'm not sure. We lowered our explanation to about a 6th grade comprehension level, and they finally seemed to get it, at least while they were on site.

        Stuff like:

        "These are the daily and weekly tasks we must perform with this system - you will have to sign an MOU/MOA (Memorandum of Understanding/Agreement) where you will accomplish these tasks how we tell you to." (Often, they didn't have the trained personnel to do it.)

        "You will have to provide 24/7/365 uptime, with at least three 9s reliability (yes, I know that's low, but we couldn't justify higher), including the ability to do file level restoration." (They really balked at the file level restoration.)

        "You have to have trained support personnel with OS experience." Their response was, "We can upgrade that to ." Our rebuttal, "No you can't, it has to stay in that exact configuration until changes are tested and approved by Echelon II."

        We got to keep most of our stuff, at least so far.

    • The problem is proving that the total actual savings are in alignment, requiring cooperation between a number of different departments. If the program is optimized to maximize ROI (which they never are), you target avoided capital expenditures first by consolidating into sites with available capacity, and onto existing systems with available processing/storage from sites that require major infrastructure upgrades. One trigger is often battery replacement, and you use the opportunity to move towards a bett

  • The answer is probably "0"

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Powner, Director of IT? Can't make that up.
  • by ganjadude ( 952775 ) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @11:10AM (#43731891) Homepage
    Ever notice how easy it is to spend other peoples money? they have no real reason to try and save that 3 billion because its not from their pockets. just raise taxes again and it will all be ok. In the end this will probably be like everything else

    "we know we told you this project would save you 3 billion but we made an error"

    what was the error?

    "well we meant to say cost, not save. this change will cost you 3 billion"
    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      Ever notice how easy it is to spend other peoples money? they have no real reason to try and save that 3 billion because its not from their pockets. just raise taxes again and it will all be ok. In the end this will probably be like everything else
      "we know we told you this project would save you 3 billion but we made an error"
      what was the error?
      "well we meant to say cost, not save. this change will cost you 3 billion"

      savings would mean that some people would be making themselves redundant. so what to do? fire half the people in the projects randomly in advance. sounds stupid, but works.

  • If, as even the Democrats admit, the government is "too vast" for the President to be responsible [nationalreview.com], we ought to be shrinking it, rather than continue its expansion to the new domains (like, uh, healthcare)...
    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by Nadaka ( 224565 )

      Healthcare in America is 5 times more expensive for half the benefit compared to other countries with socialized medicine. At current rates, sometime in the next few decades it will pose an existential crisis for America because it will consume a larger portion of our GDP than any other area of the economy. The majority of people will no longer be able to access healthcare at all, illness and disease will sap our productivity and we will return to a third world country where the average lifespan is 30 or 40

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mi ( 197448 )

        Failure to deal with the nation ending enormous failure of the "free market" solution to a social issue of health care

        Sadly, the healthcare market in the US has not been free since the 1940-ies. During the War the government sought to limit workers' salaries, so, to attract talent, employers started offering "benefits" — like health insurance. This separated payers for health-care from the consumers of it — triggering the spiraling costs as the patients demanded the very best, while blaming the

        • Imagine the death rate of members of the party not in control of the IPAB just before a big election.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          When you use a term like 'death panel' you are showing that you have not separated emotion from logic. It's a word used solely to activate an emotional response. It's completely meaningless as any healthcare whether private or public will make a cost/benefit analysis. Do you call every decision that a private health insurer makes a 'death panel'? You may make some decent points but as long as you are allowing your emotion to fill in those little gaps in knowledge that everyone has you will not see the e
          • by moeinvt ( 851793 )

            A healthcare system where the user pays no marginal cost for services will create nearly infinite demand for services. Government cannot possibly pay for this. Therefore, services must be rationed and limited to constrain costs. Yes, "death panel" is emotional rhetoric, but it has an element of accuracy. In a government-run healthcare system, bureaucrats will inevitably be making life and death decisions.

            The benefits of socialized medicine are that everyone has access to services at no marginal cost, th

      • Yes and no. See, I am very interested in what will happen if / when socialized medicine manages to make its full debut in the US.

        Why, you ask? Well, there has been a long-standing argument about whether or not the US medical patient has been subsidizing the developmental costs of those drugs...and whether the rest of the world's citizenry has gotten to ride for free as a result. On one hand, you have the pharms, who have political lobbyists, IP trickery, loads of scams, but occasionally some novel drugs com

        • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

          I've been interested in that question myself. The reality will likely be somewhere in-between. The pharmaceutical companies probably will find some way to cope, quite probably with government aid. How that aid adds to the behind the scenes costs of socialized medicine would be another question.

          Certainly, someone is either not telling the whole truth, or at least, has a serious misperception. The ability of other governments to negotiate lower prices may actually represent the fact that actually "produci

      • by moeinvt ( 851793 )

        "...enormous failure of the "free market" solution to a social issue of health care"

        It never ceases to amaze me that we can have a situation where the big government "solution" has been an utter and complete catastrophe, but the government worshipers INSIST that the evil "free market" is the problem.

        Government implemented Medicare. They implemented Medicaid. They ordered hospitals to treat everyone at the ER regardless of whether or not they could pay. They mandate what services insurance policies must c

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ebno-10db ( 1459097 )

      we ought to be shrinking [the government], rather than continue its expansion to the new domains (like, uh, healthcare)...

      Right, because it's impossible for government to handle health insurance well. Ignore Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia and virtually every other developed country in the world whose governments handle than it better than our system, because they must be outliers, and it defies your version of "common sense" (which trumps real world data) and uh, oh yeah, you're ideologically indisposed to face reality. While you're at it, ignore our own limited socialized health insurance (aka Medicare) because it, uh, has

      • by deKernel ( 65640 )

        Then by all means, please move to where you believe the health care system is better. Nobody is saying you have to stay here and ruin the current system.

        • Then by all means, please move to where you believe the health care system is better.

          Let me translate:

          America, love it or leave it

          Very retro. I think I just saw Richard Nixon and Abbie Hoffman strolling by.

          Of course that attitude is a great American tradition. It's entirely reasonable to say that I should leave the country where I was born, have lived my whole life, and am a citizen of by virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment, because I think it's desirable to change some particular aspect. Many famous Americans have avoided discord by offering and following that advice, from George Washington to Susan B. Anthony to Ma

      • by mi ( 197448 )

        Right, because it's impossible for government to handle health insurance well.

        "Fallacy of excluded middle". I did not say it is "impossible". It is possible — and is, indeed, done in all the places you list. But it is done poorly in all of those places.

        Instead it involves the always efficient "private sector"

        Free market is the most efficient thing humanity has come up with. Our problem was that this particular market was not at all free — not for decades... Instead of freeing it, Obamacare made

      • by jfengel ( 409917 )

        Obama and the Democrats did what was politically possible. The public option would have been too politically unpalatable for the most conservative Democrats. Under the rules, they needed every single Democrat; no Republican would have given serious consideration to any plan, even the one that is actually substantially similar to their own (and could have been even more similar if they'd participated in the development of it).

        In hindsight, they might as well have gone for a public option: most of the conserv

        • Obama and the Democrats did what was politically possible.

          No. It'd be one thing if Obama had tried and failed, but he didn't even try. He's notorious for first compromising with himself then using that as a starting point for negotiations. Any kid knows that's not the way you bargain. Not that I think Obama doesn't know how to be persuasive. He learned politics in Chicago, where you're not twisting somebody's arm enough until you break it. Obama is very good at playing hardball, but only does it for things he actually cares about. The premature "compromises" and e

      • by moeinvt ( 851793 ) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @02:42PM (#43734123)

        Medicare is "cheaper"? Yeah, because government fixes the prices they pay. Nothing is "free". Government stiffs the hospital by price fixing Medicaid/Medicare services, so hospitals just shift that cost onto everyone else, especially the uninsured.
        Government forces hospitals to treat people at emergency rooms regardless of their willingness or ability to pay, but does not fund this mandate, so that also translates into higher bills for everyone else. Government bans re-importation of prescription drugs & medical devices, thus forcing Americans to subsidize R&D for the rest of the world and guarantee profits for big pharma.

        With all of this cost shifting, retail prices are insanely expensive, so people are compelled to buy insurance. There's how your worthless middle man enters the picture, and now you MUST buy his product or the IRS will be after you.

        Government has been heavily involved in the healthcare system for 50 years. What's the result? Costs have exploded, millions are unable to afford basic services, quality of service is poor for the price paid, etc. etc. Yet people think that even more government is the "solution"? That's how Einstein defined "insanity".

        Eliminating a middle man would reduce costs. Competition and innovation would also drive down costs and increase quality. Government price controls and mandates do exactly the opposite.

  • by Enry ( 630 ) <enry@wayga.QUOTEnet minus punct> on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @11:18AM (#43731985) Journal

    How much have they saved now? Probably not much, and probably spent more.

    It costs money to find the location, arrange the contracts, hire new people/lay off or move staff, and move equipment between rooms. Even then, many organizations may say it's cheaper to buy new hardware than it is to move 5+ year old servers.

    However, the efficiency once many of those data centers is closed will become apparent. Space/power/cooling/networking/staff isn't cheap. Consolidating will give you some amazing savings a few years in.

    • by Nadaka ( 224565 )

      Most likely they can't say how much they saved because the previous accounting of the cost of those numerous data centers was sporadic at best. You can't know how much you saved if you don't know how much it cost to run what you replaced.

    • ...until you find you have all this orphaned equipment that nobody actually knows what it does in 5 years.

  • Maybe we should slow down with the deficit reductions; [cnbc.com] this consolodation may not be necessary and may be detrimental.

    Since the recession ended four years ago, the federal budget deficit has topped $1 trillion every year. But now the government's annual deficit is shrinking far faster than anyone in Washington expected, and perhaps even faster than many economists think is advisable for the health of the economy.

    That is the thrust of a new report released Tuesday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Off

  • by VortexCortex ( 1117377 ) <VortexCortex AT ... trograde DOT com> on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @11:23AM (#43732039)

    You know you're in trouble when they speak of how much money they're saving instead of how much they spent to acquire a feature or benefit. What about the data center that stores every digital interaction in America? I bet that costs a pretty penny to operate, let's shut it down, it's not doing us any good. Didn't stop the Boston Bombing... Hell, zoning laws could have prevented the recent explosion in West, TX (which was more harmful than the Boston bombs), but I don't see them trying to save anything at all anywhere -- Not even lives.

    "Honey, look what I got, you wouldn't believe how much money I saved today!" -- No. She spent money, didn't "save" a dime. I'll evaluate cost to benefit ratio to determine if the purchases were wise.

    Want to save money? Why not get rid of the DHS? They're not needed. We have FBI and cops already. We don't need a huge cumbersome annoying workforce of security guards who don't actually provide security. You Can't Provide Security for others -- They can only protect themselves, and should be aware of surroundings and cautious of dangers if need be; That saves money and lives.

    How much of the money they're spending on 3rd party contractors is wasted by inflating the costs to turn a profit? I'm not stupid. They haven't saved a dime one.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Government program behind schedule and over budget exactly according to plan.

  • Some of us saw this coming since the day it was announced.

    a) This is big government we're talking about. We're lucky the costs aren't higher.
    b) Since when has anything orchestrated by this administration been anything but the opposite of what claimed?
    c) We're lucky they're actually telling us at this point.

  • "How do you think you'd feel if you knew you were on top of two million parts built by the lowest bidder in a government contract?"
  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @11:38AM (#43732173)

    They need another datacenter to hold the computers that track the cost savings from the other datacenters.

  • Hovernment does not know how to budget and Software is always behind schedule.
    Put the two toigether and you'll not have any savings at all but a growing cost.

  • Data center consolidations are never easy, and this is most likely being handled by a for-profit contractor, so tack on an extra 20% to whatever price tag it is, just for overhead.

    Think of all the stuff that has to happen:
    - All the connectivity to various networks has to be moved or duplicated. If we're not talking IPsec over the Internet, that means circuit orders, routing changes, etc. which quickly multiply and all involve tons of coordination.
    - If you're doing P2V, that has to be carefully scheduled and

    • I work for a rather large agency... our initial numbers are coming back at 3X the cost to "consolidate".. So any savings for power, space, etc are trumped by those "for-profit" contractors running the data centers. At this point it almost looks like it was a plan to put money in someone's pocket, not save anything since the "big-boys" are getting all of the work.
  • A few years ago, we got a "new" data center. I was all excited to move our old and busted applications at least off of old an busted hardware!

    However what we got was a new building.

    Rather than getting new servers, what we actually got was a few days of downtime while they unplugged and loaded it all on a truck and drove our busted hardware to the new building! Progress!

    When I was told, I had one of those laughs... Although all I could think of was what would happen if the semi truck carrying all our stuff c

  • I work for the DoD (Army) and have seen the datacenter consolidation progress in my organization and others in my Theatre. There is no method or order to collect energy savings analysis, so we are never going to know how much money/power is being saved. No one, at least in my Signal command or lower, ever asked for it.

    Of course, being that the consolidation is mostly-complete in my Theatre, its too late go gather any real data. Most likely, Brigades will simply make estimates based on the number of servers

The absent ones are always at fault.