Washington CO2 reduction targets – there is another way

A buffering symbol inside a cloud

Posted on Friday, December 16, 2016

US federal bodies are under constant pressure to increase IT capacity and capability – but a new mandate from Washington has just made the CTO’s job even more difficult. The Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI) requires government agencies to consolidate their IT equipment with a view to reducing energy dependence and carbon emissions.

A cost-cutting measure

Like many green initiatives handed down from Washington, the true goal is to reduce costs. Figures quoted by FCW indicate federal data centers cost $5.4 billion in 2014 – the DCOI is hoped to halve this spend to $2.7 billion by 2018.

Without these centralized initiatives, IT spend will continue to spiral upwards as capacity demands also increase. Washington’s proposed solution is for federal bodies to adopt more cloud services – but they may be looking at capacity demands from the wrong angle.

Major spend is not in front-line capacity

Just 20% of federal data is defined as mission-critical, requiring primary storage. The vast majority is archive information that can be held on any platform.

Washington suggests that this non-mission critical data should be shifted to the cloud where storage is “cheaper”, and there is less likelihood of information silos developing in legacy platforms on-site. This cost-cutting plan obviously ignores factors like Cloud vendor lock-in – and the fact that there are other options.

Software Defined Storage delivers similar savings

Cloud vendor lock-in introduces uncertainty and risk into the federal data strategy – particularly as savings realized today could be wiped out in the future. The alternative is to make better use of existing assets, redeploying hardware in a software defined infrastructure to create a cloud-like pool for archived data.

SDS deployments increase availability of non-mission critical data, and helps to realize increased return on investment on existing assets. The ability to redeploy post-warranty assets increases capacity without additional investment. And because those assets are already in use, the agency’s carbon footprint will not increase either.

The cloud is genuinely useful in some cases. But Washington needs to realize that the cloud is not the answer to every cost-cutting, carbon-reducing exercise.