The Raritan Blog

How is the Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI) Changing the Landscape? (Part 1)

Rick Gonedes
May 8, 2017

Data centers are becoming more important with each passing day. One study estimates that data center construction worldwide will continue to grow at a rate of about 21% per year until 2018. Yet at the same time, the infrastructure that supports these mission-critical data centers is woefully inefficient on their best days. It is estimated that about 30% of servers in the United States alone were considered comatose — meaning that expensive computing assets are going to waste. Worldwide, experts estimate that about 10 million servers (representing about $30 million in capital) have not performed valuable computing work OR delivered data in the past six months.

Simply put, things are growing too large, too fast. The complexity of these environments are changing all the time, making it difficult for data center operators to keep up with issues that lead to downtime or lost productivity. Not to mention, how difficult it is to actually increase design and operational efficiency at the same time.

In many ways, these are the types of issues that the Federal Government Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI) was designed to address. As one of the biggest data center users on planet Earth today (the United States government, alone owns approximately 2,000 data centers), federal officials have a vested interest in strengthening the efficiency of the existing infrastructure to both better meet the needs of today and prepare for the perceived future needs of tomorrow and beyond.

But just how is the DCOI changing the landscape of the modern day data center? While a certain level of disruption is to be expected and even welcomed, this is an understandably complicated topic that requires you to keep a few key things in mind.

The Data Center Optimization Initiative: Breaking It Down

At its core, the DCOI is a federal mandate that requires agencies to "develop and report on data center strategies" in an effort to consolidate aging and inefficient infrastructure, make better use of existing facilities, unlock new opportunities in terms of cost savings and begin a lengthy but pivotal transition into a more efficient infrastructure — essentially all at the same time.

To that final point, as of March 2016 United States government agencies are no longer actually allowed to either build new data centers or expand existing ones until they can prove that there are no other viable (read: more efficient) alternatives available. Just a few examples of alternatives that would be considered acceptable include but are not limited to ones like:

  • Transitioning into cloud computing and related services.
  • Leasing colocation space.
  • Using services shared with other agencies.
  • Migrating to DCIM, or Data Center Infrastructure Management.

When you consider that the US government's total annual IT spend is estimated to be about $80 billion, placing a high priority on more affordable, better options makes a large amount of sense. The government actually spent close to $5.4 billion on physical data centers alone in 2014.

What Has Actually Changed?

The DCOI was primarily intended to replace the rules and goals laid out in the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative, which first debuted in 2010. A few of the major objectives of the FDCCI included:

  • Reducing the overall footprint of government data centers, both in terms of energy consumption and real estate requirements.
  • Reducing the total cost of hardware, software, and operations of each data center.
  • Strengthening the IT security capabilities of the federal government.
  • Shifting towards more efficient computing platforms and technologies wherever possible.

The DCOI, on the other hand, is much stricter in its primary goals of both reducing the government's data center inventory and the total cost required to maintain it. The DCOI places a heavy emphasis on the role of cloud computing moving forward and if everything goes to plan, the government wants to reduce any and all spending on physical data by as much as $1.36 billion over the next three years.

In Part 2, we will discuss what these changes mean for the consistently evolving data center landscape moving forward. To read Part 2 click here -