A typical data center costs $18.5 million per year to operate, estimates the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Technology Engagement Center. The U.S. government operates more than 12,000 data centers, according to the most recent reports from government agencies to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
Not surprisingly, cost savings and efficiency are the top reasons federal CIOs drive their agencies to adopt the cloud. Agencies are under pressure to digitally transform and curb IT spending, making flexibility, scalability and lower operational costs a necessity. The cloud, then, is a critical next step in IT modernization for the U.S. public sector.
But migrating thousands of government data centers to the cloud—or even tens of enterprise data centers—isn’t that simple.
Government Data Center Shutdown
OMB expected agencies to have closed over half of these data centers by September 2018, to reach Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI) goals set in 2016. Based on agencies’ reported progress, and confirmed by a MeriTalk study, agencies won’t make the deadline and will fall short of OMB’s DCOI savings goal by more than $1 billion.
DCOI, which supersedes the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative launched in 2010, is OMB’s fulfillment of the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) of 2014. FITARA requires OMB to recommend efficient, money-saving strategies for federal agencies to inventory, consolidate and optimize data centers. This includes the adoption of automated monitoring, virtualization and cloud technologies. Fortunately, agencies now have an extended deadline of October 2020 to meet these objectives.
This isn’t the first attempt to accelerate cloud computing in the U.S. government. The White House issued a groundbreaking cloud-first policy, authored by then-U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra, in 2011 (ahead of the U.K. in 2013). Before making any major IT modernization investments, federal agencies were urged to consider cloud capabilities that address inefficiencies and improve service delivery.
Off to a running start, agencies doubled cloud spending over five years. Despite dips in 2017, in part due to the overall federal budget, analysts expect government cloud spending to continue increasing. Additionally, under the newer Modernizing Government Technology Act, federal agencies are setting aside money just for IT modernization projects, including cloud migrations.
With such a heavy push to the cloud, why is the federal government still running on thousands of data centers?
The agencies making the most progress are laying the foundation for a flexible hybrid cloud environment.
Jeff Henry, President of ViON Corporation (a VMware Cloud Provider)
The Benefits of a Hybrid Cloud-First Policy
Up against unforeseen complexities and costs of cloud migrations, some agencies stalled or gave up on their cloud journey. Government IT leaders run into obstacles, like ensuring data security and accessibility during migrations. Often, IT isn’t organizationally aligned or effectively trained for cloud computing. Some data centers are mission-critical to agencies’ unique security and compliance requirements, and cannot be shut down.
But cloud technology is maturing to the point where its countless benefits are too great to ignore. Lowering operational costs and reducing downtime are just the beginning. With cloud environments, public sector organizations swiftly scale IT infrastructure capacity, ensure operational and disaster recovery continuity and speed up application development.
Instead, many public sector organizations, from the federal to local level, bring “on-paper” cloud commitments to life with a hybrid cloud. Hybrid clouds provide the same benefits without the need to re-architect infrastructures or retrain personnel. Just like public clouds, many hybrid cloud partners offer agile, secure, FedRAMP-authorized solutions built specifically for the public sector, like the forthcoming VMware Cloud on Amazon Web Services (AWS) GovCloud (U.S.) service from VMware and Amazon.
Large public sector organizations, including academic institution MIT, already tap the benefits of hybrid cloud to quickly migrate workloads, empower application developers with unparalleled speed and boost efficiency. IT admins at MIT moved hundreds of workloads onto VMware Cloud on AWS in just nine days—what once took more than 18 months of application work—providing immediate value to students.