Data Center Consolidation: Industry and DON Perspectives
Published, April 24, 2012
Consolidation of data centers is a complex and long-term issue that both private and public sectors are facing. This issue was the focus of the panel discussion, Data Center Consolidation from the Department of the Navy Perspective, that Mr. Terry Halvorsen, Department of the Navy Chief Information Officer, moderated at this year's Sea Air Space Convention. Comprised of data center consolidation and data storage experts from across the government, private industry and consulting, panelists discussed lessons learned, how industry and government can better work together to solve the issues facing the DON, and the role of innovation in this area.
Panel participants included Rear Admiral Matthew L. Klunder, Chief of Naval Research and Director, Test Evaluation and Technology Requirements; Ms. Janice Haith, Director, Assessments and Compliance and DON Deputy CIO (Navy); Mr. Johnny Barnes, IBM, Federal Chief Technology Officer; Ms. Michele R. Weslander Quaid, Google, Chief Technology Officer (Federal) and Innovation Evangelist; and Mr. Ray Paquet, Gartner, Inc., Managing Vice President.
A central theme of the discussion was how to best leverage relationships between the DON and industry when developing data storage solutions. From the DON standpoint, there is a desire for industry to serve, not only as solution provider, but also as educator on the art of the possible. By providing economical and effective solutions and helping to educate the DON on opportunities and technologies for data storage, industry can accomplish both of these tasks.
Industry panelists recommended that they be brought in earlier to help devise solutions that truly meet the needs of the government vice meeting the needs of a contract. Early engagement between industry and DON will be beneficial on several fronts. The desired end-state will be understood by both parties, identified DON needs can motivate industry to drive development in a specific area, and policies can be developed that are more descriptive of the desired end-state as opposed to prescriptive of exact systems and platforms. As Weslander Quaid stated, "We need to stop talking tools and start describing the vision. Let the technologists identify the tools."
Another discussion surrounded lessons learned from previously conducted data center consolidations. When approaching a data center consolidation, the panel agreed that it is vital to have a good understanding and baseline of an organization's portfolio and processes. "One thing many agencies don't understand is that an accurate baseline of their portfolio is fundamental to making decisions and must be understood before taking actions," said Barnes.
Additionally, there was consensus that one of the most significant obstacles to success is an organization's culture. To ensure the effort is successful, the people and culture of an organization must be a focal point. It is necessary for people to understand the vision for the change and to drop any preconceived notions of data storage when approaching the issue.
Barnes stated, "Culture is the number one resistor. If people can get over the change then it moves forward. It is necessary to have a common lexicon and understanding throughout the organization." Haith agreed that the culture change is significant as people are concerned that consolidation will hinder access to timely data. The panel agreed, however, that consolidation will provide an opportunity for better management of the network and the data, whether it be for commercial or government data centers, and whether the data is stored onsite or in the cloud.