A survey on the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI) by MeriTalk, reported that, while 86% of Federal IT professionals polled have completed data center consolidation plans, the majority of IT professionals give their agencies a “C” or below in grading their consolidation efforts. What are the challenges they’re facing? I recently joined a panel called “Future Proof – Data Center Optimization” at the Federal Forum 2013 in which my public sector colleagues outlined what they’re facing as they consolidate the 9.5 million square feet of data centers operated for the Federal government.
Panelist Bernard Mazer, CIO, Dept. of the Interior, said the first step was to identify the core data centers that are critical to the operation, a much smaller number than the thousands of data centers they have. But Mazer said that application proliferation and redundancy was a key challenge and they were undertaking application rationalization and determining which applications to consolidate, eliminate, upgrade, move to the core data centers or move to the cloud.
All the panelists agreed that the network was often the most overlooked, yet critical, asset in data center consolidation. The panelists also had good news: Wolf Tombe, CTO, Customers and Border Control, Dept. of Homeland Security addressed the capacity challenges by creating a shared, distributed architecture to scale apps as needed. “Now our consolidated data centers are all pretty consistent: they run in cloud-like environments and are big savings for us,” he says. “When the cloud mantra came out a few years ago, we realized that we were fairly well situated for this. [Now,] we’re positioned for shared services.” And Mazer was “very excited about the prospect of liberating data and making it available to the American public.”
To me, history is repeating itself. Years ago, enterprises built their own private networks; it cost them a lot but they owned the network. The majority of enterprises now subscribe to VPN services. I think data centers are going the same way. Software Defined Networking (SDN) has become the framework which integrates IT to network for the first time in history. Think about what you can do with SDN that allows apps and services to programmatically instruct network infrastructure to do what’s best for them. At the end, SDN will help governments deploy applications quickly and more efficiently.
I anticipate that there will be many applications and services that will require specific interfaces. People are not going to rip and replace their networks or technology infrastructures overnight so those involved with the management of IT and network infrastructures need to become involved in the SDN conversations, which are being extensively discussed at Brocade, and with the OpenStack and OpenDaylight communities.
Federal CTOs are drawn to the benefits of emerging, disruptive technologies such as mobility, cloud computing and network virtualization. However, they are concerned about the vulnerability of the new network models. This angst has created a chasm for these technologies, requiring leading technology companies like Brocade to work closely with the Fed customers to deliver solutions that deliver these promising capabilities while keeping networks, systems and data safe.
Many thanks to my colleagues on the panel and in the audience for a lively and illuminating conversation.