Managed Federal Data Centers Deliver Government Anytime, Anywhere
The U.S. government has been working to close many of its federal data centers, but initial consolidation efforts have achieved mixed success.
The Government Adjusts Its Data Center Practices
The first Federal CIO, Vivek Kundra, first proposed shutting down federal data centers in 2010. By 2015, according to Nextgov, Kundra hoped to close 40 percent of data centers and trim $5 billion from America’s IT budget. At the time, Kundra only considered federal data centers of 500 square feet or larger in his initiative.
When Steven VanRoekel succeeded Kundra as federal CIO, as reported by FierceGovernmentIT, he took a “size matters not” approach to saving money. By VanRoekel’s definition, data centers could be defined as anything from 3 square feet of IT space to a 90,000-square-foot data center. As a result, total federal data center numbers, on paper, increased from 1,100 in 2009 to 11,700 in 2015.
Current Federal CIO Tony Scott continues the quest his predecessors started. As of December 2015, the government has closed 3,300 data centers, cutting $2.5 billion from the nation’s IT costs. Now, agencies are looking for ways to cut costs with managed data center services. Even at the state and municipal level, agencies want to deliver on the defining goal of President Obama’s Digital Government initiative: Create a government that’s ready to receive and deliver digital information and services anytime, anywhere, on any device.
An Open Yet Secure Approach
Open access to government data promotes transparency while spurring both public and private sector innovation. With Digital Government, the Obama administration sets a goal of making high-value data available through Web APIs.
It’s a way of giving both public and private sector developers, entrepreneurs and end users more access to government content. For example, the White House points to San Francisco, which started releasing real-time train system data, including location, scheduling and route data, to the public via Web API. Using the data, private developers created more than 10 mobile apps to share that information with the public, a better outcome than the city would have achieved if app development had stayed in-house.
Yet even as it’s architected for openness and sharing, federal data centers also must uphold privacy and security regulations. Agencies that store personally identifiable information or classified information require strict security measures. As the government closes data centers and consolidates resources, managed data center providers can step into the gaps. To win the government’s business, data centers have to meet high standards for both availability and security.
To make data available 24/7, managed data centers need to keep government servers always accessible. Although Uptime Institute no longer certifies North American data centers on its Tier I to Tier IV scale, Tier IV standards are still a good measuring stick for federal data center availability.
The Tier IV data center has redundancy in all critical components, plus redundancy in power and cooling systems. It also builds in fault tolerance, which means a Tier IV data center has no single points of failure. Tier IV data centers promise no more than 26 minutes of downtime per year — 99.995 percent availability — and 96 hours of power outage protection. Agencies that outsource to a Tier IV-equivalent data center can deliver 24/7 services.
Cloud data centers recognized as FedRAMP Ready have a better shot at winning government contracts. Managed data center providers start by applying for FedRAMP authorization. Once they complete the process, which usually takes six to 18 months, they’ll receive a final Authorized to Operate (ATO) letter. After a cloud data center earns its ATO, the government requires ongoing monitoring and reporting for continued compliance.
State and local agencies can leverage FedRAMP-approved partners when setting up their own data center projects.
From Federal Data Centers to State and Municipal Governments
From consolidating and shutting down unnecessary data centers at the federal level to San Francisco’s initiative to open train data to the public via API, technology empowers government to slash costs while serving the public anytime, anywhere, on any device. State and municipal IT leaders can look to the federal government’s example when planning how to cut unnecessary IT spend and reliably deliver the services their constituency deserves.
With transformation, however, comes responsibility. The public deserves both access and security. Agencies and municipal offices get the most from government IT providers that streamline procurement, ensure availability and safeguard government data.