NASCIO’s New Playbook Helps States Undergoing Data Center Consolidation

A decade after its initial data center consolidation survey, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) released Shrinking Data Centers Playbook as an update on state efforts to consolidate and optimize data centers. The report shares best practices and recommendations to states that are still consolidating.

First, some key takeaways: NASCIO reports, “24 agencies are participating in the Office of Management and Budget’s Data Center Optimization Initiative. As of August 2016, the agencies had identified 9,995 data centers, closed 4,388, and plan to close a total of 5,597.”

Given the nationwide emphasis on data center consolidation and optimization, NASCIO did find that states have made significant progress in the last decade. In 2007, only 14 percent of states had completed consolidation. In the new survey, 42 percent of states reported that their consolidation efforts were complete. Similarly, in 2007, 24 percent of states were planning to undergo consolidation and 23 percent had only proposed consolidation or taken no action. With the new survey, 47 percent of states are currently consolidation and 11 percent have plans to consolidate.

As its name might suggest, the bulk of the playbook focused on recommendations to the states that are still planning or carrying out consolidation.

Just as NASCIO made an effort to identify the total number of data centers, it suggests that states make an effort to identify the resources needed to serve agency customers and deliver services to citizens, including data storage and safekeeping, data processing, and operation. Once states have an accurate baseline on their needs, they can focus on “designing the [consolidation] to fit needs, instead of requiring agencies to work within (or despite) new government regulations or directives.” NASCIO also recommends that states identify and document the state’s IT assets, so that useful assets can be reused post-consolidation.

Budget concerns and avoiding excessive costs plays a huge part in optimizing servers, so NASCIO focuses several of its recommendations on the financial side of optimization. One recommendation is to conduct a spend analysis to show agencies how their costs will change and how much they would save by consolidating. The playbook stresses using third-party assessors for this process may not always reveal new information, but can be important for credibility. As part of the effort to address allocation and funding issues, NASCIO recommends getting the support of the legislature and renegotiating contracts with vendors, if needed.

While those recommendations around cost take place during the planning process, NASCIO also recommends reporting on savings after the process is completed.

NASCIO explains that project management can make or break consolidation efforts. Early on in the process, NASCIO recommends that states create a detailed roadmap and scrutinize the connections between equipment and organizations to minimize disruption and outages during consolidation. As part of scrutinizing those connections, NASCIO suggests that states update their Information Technology Service Management and/or their Information Technology Infrastructure Library to be able to tell who is doing what.

While planning and timelines are obviously important, NASCIO recommends that states “manage expectations and expect surprises.” It recommends that states stick to schedules and the intended timeline, but also “have plans in place for…disasters and practice for these types of emergencies.”

NASCIO also shares a few ‘best practices.’ It recommends that states communicate with stakeholders early and often, involving them as much as possible in the process by creating a stakeholder organization or incorporating some workers from agencies who can advocate for their agency’s needs into the implementation. Finally, when planning how to store mainframe, NASCIO urges organizers to make it sustainable, to avoid re-consolidating too frequently.

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