One of Congress’ advisors is telling it to consider hearings to find out whether data center consolidation is all it’s cracked up to be, or even if CIOs have the information to find out.
But a little background first.
It’s not often that Congressional Research Service documents make it out into the wild. The three big congressional sets of eyes and ears all behave differently. The Government Accountability Office widely distributes its reports and it makes it’s director-level people on up to Comptroller Gene Dodaro easily available for media interviews. It doesn’t stand on ceremony – the public affairs office there will help you get to someone the same day if necessary. The Congressional Budget Office freely makes its reports available as they are published. Like GAO, it offers a subscription service. But the director, Douglas Elmendorf, won’t give interviews.
By contrast, getting information out of the CRS takes some prying. A few members of Congress will redistribute reports they’ve received. You can get them here and there, but never directly from the agency. In an interview I aired on Federal News Radio recently, former CRS staff member Doug Schuman, who is now with the Sunlight Foundation described CRS as Congress’ very own hundred million dollar Encyclopedia Britannica.
Anyhow, that’s why I was surprised when the CRS report about Defense Department data center consolidation escaped, courtesy of the Federation of American Scientists. Good for them. They make a lot of CRS reports available. The report urges Congress to have hearings. If it does, we’ll better understand what advice members listen to.
The report on data center consolidation was written by Patricia Moloney Figliola, listed as specialist in Internet and telecommunications policy. She was assisted by Anthony Andrews, specialist in energy and defense policy, and Eric Fischer, senior specialist in science and technology.
The report is obviously written for people who don’t understand IT deeply. I would expect this of CRS, given its audience. You can’t expect the average member of Congress to know a blade from a rack server from a free-standing server, or the various cooling techniques that have developed around the “hot aisle” phenomenon of modern data center design. But the writers get it essentially right.
Although the report mostly recaps data center consolidation efforts going back to the Clinton Administration, the report points out a few things not found in the rosy reports about progress. Such as:
- No single committee on the Hill is responsible for oversight of the initiative.
- Somebody has to watch the up-front costs of data center consolidation, because it does in fact require significant investment. In fact, in some cases, the costs may outweigh the future savings.
- Data needed for accurate cost-benefit analyses of consolidations is unavailable for most federal data centers.