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In a recent podcast, Peter Schooff spoke with Tarak Modi, vice president and CTO of Calibre Systems, about the U.S. government's use of cloud computing. What follows is a transcript of their conversation, edited for editorial style, clarity and length.

Peter Schooff: Could you give an update on the status of the federal data center consolidation?



Tarak Modi: Sure. To summarize the initiative itself, it is the latest effort to stop and reverse the growth of federal data centers by promoting the use of green IT. Not only would this reduce the cost of data-center hardware, software and operations, but it would help improve the overall IT security posture of the government and shift IT funds from the mere tactical keeping-the-lights-on type of expenses to more strategic computing platforms and technology investments.

[Recently,] a lot has happened. All agencies have successfully created asset inventories and data-consolidation plans. The exercise so far has had some interesting revelations. One of the more disturbing findings is that we were way off in terms of how many federal data centers we thought we had. We've all heard [U.S. CIO] Vivek Kundra cite over 1,100 data centers in his speeches and interviews. Well, the real number is [nearly] double that. That means we have almost 2,100 data centers in the federal government. By far, the worst culprit is the Department of Defense, with 772 data centers. The Department of State follows, with 361 data centers. These two agencies alone exceed Kundra's estimate of the 1,100 data centers.

As we go further down the list, you'll see that that the Department of Interior has 210 data centers and the Department of Health and Human Services has 185. All the remaining agencies have less than 100 each, with some of them in the single digits.

By the way, as far as this initiative is concerned, a data center is any room that is larger than 500 square feet, is devoted to data processing and meets one of the Uptime Institute's Tier 1, 2, 3, or 4 classifications.

This leads us to an interesting dilemma--sort of a sort of a Catch-22. On the one hand, the much higher number of data centers further necessitates the need for this consolidation initiative. On the other hand, it creates some interesting challenges.

One challenge is the even greater pressure on already scarce funding. Another challenge is that the increased scope of work will make it even more difficult for agencies to meet the already aggressive timelines. And, finally--even worse for the initiative, but good news from the agencies' perspective--is that there are no hard consequences for lack of compliance.

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