Federal agencies are apparently behind on plans to consolidate their data centers, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The federal government plans on saving more than $2.4 billion by closing some 1,186 data centers within the next three years—a significant reduction from the roughly 2,900 data centers currently powering operations for 24 agencies. In addition to the cost savings, consolidating federal data centers will (at least in theory) increase IT security and free up resources for more efficient computing platforms and technologies. However, 17 agencies have not yet provided complete information on their respective IT infrastructure and usage. “While the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) required agencies to complete missing elements in their data center inventories and plans by the end of September 2011,” read a new GAO report on the data-center consolidation, “only 3 agencies submitted complete inventories and only 1 agency submitted a complete plan.” Basic consolidation plan requirements, including schedules and cost estimates, remain unmet by nearly 70 percent of the agencies participating in the consolidation program. Data centers represent a significant cost to the federal government. Electricity to operate federal servers and data centers costs around $450 million a year, according to an EPA estimate cited in the report. Moreover, federal agencies reported limited reuse of data centers, along with server utilization rates dipping as low as 5 percent. The GAO report features agencies claiming several challenges on the way to data-center consolidation. These included accepting cultural change as part of the consolidation; funding the consolidation and identifying the resulting cost savings; operational challenges including procurement and resource constraints; and difficulties in planning a migration strategy. Despite those challenges, the report listed 20 agencies identifying 34 areas of success, “although only 3 of those areas were reported by more than 1 agency.” Success areas included focusing on virtualization and cloud services as consolidation solutions; overcoming internal politics; and implementing new services to expedite consolidation projects. Agencies were also reportedly in a collaborative mood, with eight of them reporting success in working with other agencies to find consolidation opportunities. “Agencies’ consolidation and savings goals continue to be built on incomplete inventories and plans,” the report concluded. “To better ensure that FDCCI [Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative] improves governmental efficiency and achieves promised cost savings, we are reiterating our prior recommendations to the department secretaries and agency heads… to fully complete their consolidation inventories and plans expeditiously.” Translation: please move faster, everyone. Those interested can find the full GAO report here.   Image: Oleksiy Mark/Shutterstock.com