Feds aim to cut IT costs through consolidation

The Bush administration believes it can cut the US government’sannual IT infrastructure costs, proposed at US$22.4 billion forfiscal 2007, by 16 percent to 27 percent through increasedconsolidation, standardization and interoperability.

Karen Evans, who heads the White House’s IT office at the Officeof Management and Budget, said in an e-mail that “potentialgovernment-wide cost savings are between $3.7 billion and $6.0billion per year if the Federal Government operates as oneenterprise similar to private industry corporations.”

IT vendors and federal agencies were due to confidentiallysubmit ideas on how to accomplish that goal by last Friday, and bynext month, the White House wants to have a framework in place forguiding the proposed changes. A final plan is expected to be readyby year’s end, according to the White House, which set thecost-reduction goal in March.

The government’s overall priorities include reducing total costof ownership, promoting a modular approach to system design andensuring that installations of proprietary technology don’t affectinteroperability.

Seeking a Standard

The White House isn’t necessarily moving toward a purge oflegacy systems. But Tom Berti, data center manager at the U.S.Census Bureau, said last week that he thinks he can move as much as80 percent of his IT environment to blade servers running acombination of Linux and Windows over the next three or fouryears.

Berti manages about 50,000 square feet of raised-floor datacenter space, with more than 1,000 pieces of hardware running alaundry list of operating systems, such as Tru64, OpenVMS, HP-UX,AIX, Solaris, Linux, Windows and others. But now the Census Bureauis starting to shift applications to blades from IBM and Marlboro,Mass.-based Egenera Inc.

“More than anything, I would like to have a standardconfiguration,” Berti said. “How can you have a [workable] patchmanagement strategy if all the operating systems are different?”He

declined to forecast the cost savings that the Census Bureaucould see as a result of the planned shift. But, Berti said, “thereare a lot of economies to [having] two manufacturers and twooperating systems — that’s what it comes down to.”

For example, maintenance and training costs should be reduced,he said. He also expects to save money by centralizing systemsmanagement and buying his operating system software in bulk. Inaddition, the agency is adopting more of a utility computingapproach that should simplify and speed the provisioning of systemresources, according to Berti.

There will be some exceptions to the blade server switch-over,such as the continued use of larger servers for applications thatrequire symmetrical multiprocessing capabilities. Berti hasinstalled about 170 blades thus far and has just begun putting theminto production use after an initial testing phase. The bladeservers shouldn’t cause power or cooling problems in his datacenter, which is a relatively new facility, Berti said.

Ray Bjorklund, an analyst at Federal Sources Inc. in McLean,Va., said that some defense agencies have been aggressive aboutpursuing IT consolidation and modernization initiatives. But thatisn’t the case at most federal agencies, he added.

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