Data Center Optimization:

Agencies Need to Address Challenges and Improve Progress to Achieve Cost Savings Goal

GAO-17-448: Published: Aug 15, 2017. Publicly Released: Sep 6, 2017.

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What GAO Found

Of the 24 agencies required to participate in the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI), 22 collectively reported limited progress against OMB's fiscal year 2018 performance targets. Two agencies did not have a basis to report on progress as they do not have agency-owned data centers. For OMB's five optimization targets, five agencies or less reported that they met or exceeded each of the targets (see figure).

Twenty-Two Agencies' Progress against OMB Data Center Optimization Metrics, as of February 2017

Twenty-Two Agencies' Progress against OMB Data Center Optimization Metrics, as of February 2017

Further, as of April 2017, 17 of the 22 agencies were not planning to meet OMB's targets by September 30, 2018. This is concerning because the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act's (FITARA) data center consolidation and optimization provisions, such as those that require agencies to report on optimization progress and cost savings, expire a day later on October 1, 2018. Extending the time frame of these provisions would increase the likelihood that agencies will meet OMB's optimization targets and realize related cost savings. Additionally, until agencies improve their optimization progress, OMB's $2.7 billion initiative-wide cost savings goal may not be achievable.

All 24 agencies reported successes in optimizing their data centers—notably, the benefits of key technologies, such as virtualizing systems to improve performance, and increased energy efficiency. However, agencies also reported challenges related to, for example, improving the utilization of their data center facilities and competing for labor resources. It will be important for agencies to take action to address their identified challenges—as GAO previously recommended—in order to improve data center optimization progress.

Of the 24 agencies required by OMB to implement automated monitoring tools to measure server utilization by the end of fiscal year 2018, 4 reported in their data center inventories as of February 2017 that they had fully implemented such tools, 18 reported that they had not, and 2 did not have a basis to report on progress because they do not have agency-owned data centers. Collectively, agencies reported that these tools were used at about 3 percent of their centers. Although federal standards emphasize the need to establish plans to help ensure goals are met, of the 18 agencies, none fully documented plans, 6 agencies had partially documented them, and 12 did not document them. Agencies provided varied reasons for this, including that they were still evaluating available tools. In addition, the lack of a formal requirement from OMB to establish the plans also contributed to agencies not having them. Until these plans are completed, agencies may be challenged in measuring server utilization.

Why GAO Did This Study

In December 2014, FITARA was enacted and included a series of provisions related to improving the performance of data centers, including requiring OMB to establish optimization metrics and agencies to report on progress toward meeting the metrics. OMB's Federal Chief Information Officer subsequently launched DCOI to build on prior data center consolidation and optimization efforts.

GAO was asked to review data center optimization. GAO's objectives were to (1) assess agencies' progress against OMB's data center optimization targets, (2) identify agencies' notable optimization successes and challenges, and (3) evaluate the extent to which agencies are able to effectively measure server utilization. To do so, GAO evaluated the 24 DCOI agencies' progress against OMB's fiscal year 2018 optimization targets, interviewed officials, and assessed agencies' efforts to implement monitoring tools for server utilization.

What GAO Recommends

Congress should consider extending the time frame for the data center consolidation and optimization provisions of FITARA to provide agencies with additional time to meet OMB's targets and achieve cost savings. GAO is also recommending that 18 agencies complete their plans to implement data center monitoring tools and that OMB require agencies to complete their plans and report them to OMB. Ten agencies agreed with GAO's recommendations, three agencies partially agreed, and six (including OMB) did not state whether they agreed or disagreed, as discussed in the report.

For more information, contact David A. Powner at (202) 512-9286 or pownerd@gao.gov.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In November 2017, the FITARA Enhancement Act of 2017 was enacted into law to extend the sunset date for the data center provisions of FITARA. The law's data center consolidation and optimization provisions now expire on October 1, 2020. By taking action to extend the data center provisions of FITARA, Congress has provided federal agencies with additional time to continue their optimization efforts to meet OMB?s goals and achieve further cost savings.

    Matter: As most agencies lack plans to meet OMB's data center optimization targets by the end of fiscal year 2018, it is increasingly likely that these agencies will require additional time to achieve the data center consolidation and optimization goals required by FITARA and OMB guidance. In order to provide agencies with additional time to meet OMB's data center optimization targets and achieve the related cost savings, Congress should consider extending the time frame for the data center consolidation and optimization provisions of FITARA beyond their current expiration date of October 1, 2018.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has not yet taken any actions to implement our recommendation. We will continue to monitor OMB's progress in implementing this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To better ensure that agencies complete important DCOI planning documentation and that the initiative improves governmental efficiency and achieves intended cost savings, the Director of OMB should direct the Federal chief information officer to formally document a requirement for agencies to include plans, as part of existing OMB reporting mechanisms, to implement automated monitoring tools at their agency-owned data centers.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) concurred with our recommendation and described planned actions to implement it. Specifically, the department stated that it is reviewing optimization alternatives, including evaluating the option to move to a cloud deployment model over the next few years. In addition, DHS stated that it expects to have an optimization plan that includes, among other things, resource requirements and a schedule to achieve monitoring compliance for agency-owned tiered data centers by April 2018. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts to address the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Energy, HHS, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and VA; the Attorney General of the United States; the Administrators of EPA, GSA, and SBA; the Director of OPM; and the Chairman of NRC should take action to, within existing OMB reporting mechanisms, complete plans describing how the agency will achieve OMB's requirement to implement automated monitoring tools at all agency-owned data centers by the end of fiscal year 2018.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Agriculture has not yet taken action to implement our recommendation. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts to address the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Energy, HHS, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and VA; the Attorney General of the United States; the Administrators of EPA, GSA, and SBA; the Director of OPM; and the Chairman of NRC should take action to, within existing OMB reporting mechanisms, complete plans describing how the agency will achieve OMB's requirement to implement automated monitoring tools at all agency-owned data centers by the end of fiscal year 2018.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Commerce agreed with our recommendation and described planned actions to address it. Specifically, the department noted that, as part of its effort to consolidate, define, and establish a plan to deploy an enterprise-wide automated monitoring tool, it has identified two component agencies that will offer a data center infrastructure management tool as a service. The department added that this approach will allow it to monitor and report cost savings and avoidances more efficiently. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts to address the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Energy, HHS, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and VA; the Attorney General of the United States; the Administrators of EPA, GSA, and SBA; the Director of OPM; and the Chairman of NRC should take action to, within existing OMB reporting mechanisms, complete plans describing how the agency will achieve OMB's requirement to implement automated monitoring tools at all agency-owned data centers by the end of fiscal year 2018.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  5. Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Defense has not yet taken action to implement our recommendation. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts to address the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Energy, HHS, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and VA; the Attorney General of the United States; the Administrators of EPA, GSA, and SBA; the Director of OPM; and the Chairman of NRC should take action to, within existing OMB reporting mechanisms, complete plans describing how the agency will achieve OMB's requirement to implement automated monitoring tools at all agency-owned data centers by the end of fiscal year 2018.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  6. Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Energy concurred with our recommendation and described planned actions to implement it. Specifically, the department stated that it established plans to implement automated monitoring tools at its 78 department-owned tiered data centers and plans to evaluate whether its 68 department-owned non-tiered data centers should be consolidated or closed. In November 2017 correspondence to GAO, the department further stated that, for the non-tiered centers projected to remain open, it expects to complete plans for automated server utilization by September 30, 2019. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts to address our recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Energy, HHS, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and VA; the Attorney General of the United States; the Administrators of EPA, GSA, and SBA; the Director of OPM; and the Chairman of NRC should take action to, within existing OMB reporting mechanisms, complete plans describing how the agency will achieve OMB's requirement to implement automated monitoring tools at all agency-owned data centers by the end of fiscal year 2018.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  7. Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Health and Human Services concurred with our recommendation and described planned actions to implement it. Specifically, the department stated that HHS will direct its operating and staff divisions to acquire and install automated monitoring tools in all agency-owned data centers by the close of fiscal year 2018. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts to address the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Energy, HHS, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and VA; the Attorney General of the United States; the Administrators of EPA, GSA, and SBA; the Director of OPM; and the Chairman of NRC should take action to, within existing OMB reporting mechanisms, complete plans describing how the agency will achieve OMB's requirement to implement automated monitoring tools at all agency-owned data centers by the end of fiscal year 2018.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  8. Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of the Interior partially concurred with our recommendation. Specifically, the department stated that it is committed to completing its plan on schedule, but that its ability to meet OMB's requirement to implement automated monitoring tools at all department-owned data centers by the end of fiscal year 2018 will depend on many factors and variables, including the availability of funding and other resources. Nevertheless, in October 2017 correspondence to GAO, the department stated that it expects to complete planning for the deployment of automated monitoring in agency-owned data centers by September 30, 2018 and to complete implementation by December 31,2023. The letter noted that Interior will prioritize implementation at major tiered data centers, with implementation at other data centers as budgets permit. We will monitor the department's efforts to address our recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Energy, HHS, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and VA; the Attorney General of the United States; the Administrators of EPA, GSA, and SBA; the Director of OPM; and the Chairman of NRC should take action to, within existing OMB reporting mechanisms, complete plans describing how the agency will achieve OMB's requirement to implement automated monitoring tools at all agency-owned data centers by the end of fiscal year 2018.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  9. Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Justice agreed with, but has not yet taken action to implement, our recommendation. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts to address the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Energy, HHS, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and VA; the Attorney General of the United States; the Administrators of EPA, GSA, and SBA; the Director of OPM; and the Chairman of NRC should take action to, within existing OMB reporting mechanisms, complete plans describing how the agency will achieve OMB's requirement to implement automated monitoring tools at all agency-owned data centers by the end of fiscal year 2018.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  10. Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Transportation agreed with our recommendation and, in November 2017 correspondence to GAO, described planned actions to implement it. Specifically, the department stated that its Office of the Chief Information Officer will create a plan of action to address the multi-layer requirements applicable to the department. Transportation expects to develop a plan of action that addresses the Office of Management and Budget?s August 2016 data center optimization initiative guidance memorandum. The department expects to implement its plan by September 30, 2018. We will monitor the department's efforts to address our recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Energy, HHS, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and VA; the Attorney General of the United States; the Administrators of EPA, GSA, and SBA; the Director of OPM; and the Chairman of NRC should take action to, within existing OMB reporting mechanisms, complete plans describing how the agency will achieve OMB's requirement to implement automated monitoring tools at all agency-owned data centers by the end of fiscal year 2018.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  11. Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Labor stated that it accepted our recommendation and will incorporate pertinent information in its next data center consolidation and optimization strategic plan due in April 2018. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts to address the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Energy, HHS, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and VA; the Attorney General of the United States; the Administrators of EPA, GSA, and SBA; the Director of OPM; and the Chairman of NRC should take action to, within existing OMB reporting mechanisms, complete plans describing how the agency will achieve OMB's requirement to implement automated monitoring tools at all agency-owned data centers by the end of fiscal year 2018.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  12. Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of the Treasury has not yet taken action to implement our recommendation. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts to address the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Energy, HHS, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and VA; the Attorney General of the United States; the Administrators of EPA, GSA, and SBA; the Director of OPM; and the Chairman of NRC should take action to, within existing OMB reporting mechanisms, complete plans describing how the agency will achieve OMB's requirement to implement automated monitoring tools at all agency-owned data centers by the end of fiscal year 2018.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury

  13. Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) agreed with our recommendation, and in November 2017 correspondence to GAO, described completed and planned actions to address it. Specifically, the department stated that its Office of Information and Technology (OI&T) is developing a plan to fully comply with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requirements to implement automated monitoring tools at all agency-owned data centers by the end of fiscal year 2018. According to the department, OI&T has taken a series of actions such as determining a strategy to meet OMB reporting requirements and reviewing the existing automated tools in use at VA. As part of its planning effort, OI&T is analyzing its data centers, collecting data through a web-based portal and automated tools, and implementing change management processes to manage IT assets in VA data centers. According to the department, OI&T will then complete a written comprehensive plan by November 30, 2017. We will monitor the department's efforts to address our recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Energy, HHS, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and VA; the Attorney General of the United States; the Administrators of EPA, GSA, and SBA; the Director of OPM; and the Chairman of NRC should take action to, within existing OMB reporting mechanisms, complete plans describing how the agency will achieve OMB's requirement to implement automated monitoring tools at all agency-owned data centers by the end of fiscal year 2018.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

  14. Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of State agreed with our recommendation and described completed and planned actions to address it. Specifically, the department stated that it performed an analysis of tools, including shared services and commercial-off-the-shelf products. The department also stated that it is developing an acquisition strategy based on its research and plans to pursue a commercially available product. However, the department noted that budgetary constraints may delay the acquisition until fiscal year 2019 or later. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts to address our recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Energy, HHS, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and VA; the Attorney General of the United States; the Administrators of EPA, GSA, and SBA; the Director of OPM; and the Chairman of NRC should take action to, within existing OMB reporting mechanisms, complete plans describing how the agency will achieve OMB's requirement to implement automated monitoring tools at all agency-owned data centers by the end of fiscal year 2018.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  15. Status: Open

    Comments: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) described planned actions to address our recommendation. Specifically, the agency detailed plans to address OMB's requirements, such as leveraging EPA's current investment in a network monitoring tool and the intent to procure and deploy a data center infrastructure management tool by the end of fiscal year 2018. However, EPA also noted that budget cuts may delay the agency's efforts to fully implement the requirements of the data center optimization initiative. We will continue to monitor the agency's progress in taking these actions.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Energy, HHS, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and VA; the Attorney General of the United States; the Administrators of EPA, GSA, and SBA; the Director of OPM; and the Chairman of NRC should take action to, within existing OMB reporting mechanisms, complete plans describing how the agency will achieve OMB's requirement to implement automated monitoring tools at all agency-owned data centers by the end of fiscal year 2018.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  16. Status: Open

    Comments: The General Services Administration agreed with our recommendation and stated that it plans to install automated monitoring tools by the end of fiscal year 2018. We will continue to monitor the agency's progress in taking these actions.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Energy, HHS, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and VA; the Attorney General of the United States; the Administrators of EPA, GSA, and SBA; the Director of OPM; and the Chairman of NRC should take action to, within existing OMB reporting mechanisms, complete plans describing how the agency will achieve OMB's requirement to implement automated monitoring tools at all agency-owned data centers by the end of fiscal year 2018.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  17. Status: Open

    Comments: The Small Business Administration has not yet taken action to implement our recommendation. We will continue to monitor the agency's efforts to address the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Energy, HHS, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and VA; the Attorney General of the United States; the Administrators of EPA, GSA, and SBA; the Director of OPM; and the Chairman of NRC should take action to, within existing OMB reporting mechanisms, complete plans describing how the agency will achieve OMB's requirement to implement automated monitoring tools at all agency-owned data centers by the end of fiscal year 2018.

    Agency Affected: Small Business Administration

  18. Status: Open

    Comments: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission described actions planned to address our recommendation. Specifically, the agency stated that it plans to close its non-tiered data centers. In October 2017 correspondence to GAO, the agency added that it is planning to install automated monitoring tools in all of its tiered data centers and expects to competitively award the purchase order for the tools in fiscal year 2018. We will continue to monitor the agency's efforts to address the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Energy, HHS, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and VA; the Attorney General of the United States; the Administrators of EPA, GSA, and SBA; the Director of OPM; and the Chairman of NRC should take action to, within existing OMB reporting mechanisms, complete plans describing how the agency will achieve OMB's requirement to implement automated monitoring tools at all agency-owned data centers by the end of fiscal year 2018.

    Agency Affected: Nuclear Regulatory Commission

  19. Status: Open

    Comments: The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) stated that it partially concurred with our recommendation and described plans to address it. Specifically, the agency stated that it plans to consolidate its remaining data centers into two main locations by the end of fiscal year 2018. OPM further stated that this consolidation will obviate the need to implement automated monitoring tools at the data centers that are closing. Finally, the agency noted that it is implementing automated monitoring tools at the designated core data centers. We will continue to monitor the agency's efforts to address our recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Energy, HHS, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and VA; the Attorney General of the United States; the Administrators of EPA, GSA, and SBA; the Director of OPM; and the Chairman of NRC should take action to, within existing OMB reporting mechanisms, complete plans describing how the agency will achieve OMB's requirement to implement automated monitoring tools at all agency-owned data centers by the end of fiscal year 2018.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

 

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