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Steve O'Keeffe

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Posted: 2/23/2011 - 8 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

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Like you, last week I read the patient's chart on the 2012 budget - and what it means for IT. Spending pulse quickens by $1.5 billion - up $3.5 billion, down $2 billion. Amputations at OPM, NASA, and Education. Huge infrastructure cholesterol scares at Army Corps, VA, HUD, and SSA. DoD puts on the white coat as lead shrink in cyber anxiety. 

But, it's the prescribed data center diet that left a lump in my throat. Hats off to OMB for its commitment to EHR - government transparency and new medicine. OMB examines the patient - the data center count skyrocketed 385 percent since 1998. Dr. Kundra then plots the data center spike directly against the IT spending hike in the same period. This is a "fatty foods, high blood pressure" connection - the intended takeaway here is "cause and effect." OMB sees pork in data centers. And, following the first lady’s lead, Dr. Kundra's putting Uncle Sam on a data center diet.
While doctors are famous for their illegible scrawl, Dr. Kundra's prescription is written in block capitals. Publishing the results of the 2010 Federal Data Center audit, OMB goes beyond the 2,094 aggregate number to break out the data center count at each agency. And, if that's not enough, Dr. Kundra sets us up for our very own version of The Biggest Loser - telling each agency how much weight to drop by 2015. We've published the chart from the 2012 Budget Analytical Perspective below - and added a couple of columns to rank agencies by absolute and relative target data center cuts, red columns on right.
Agency Name # DCs in '10 Target # DCs in '15 Absolute Ranking Relative Ranking
Department of Commerce 41 23 8 8
Department of Defense 772 428 1 7
Department of Energy 89 83 12 17
General Services Administration 15 3 11 4
Department of Health and Human Services 185 131 5 11
Department of Homeland Security 24 2 7 2
Department of Interior 210 120 2 9
Department of Housing and Urban Development 2 1 15 6
Department of Justice 65 50 9 13
Department of Labor 20 18 14 16
National Aeronautics and Space Administration 79 57 7 12
National Science Foundation 2 1 15 6
Nuclear Regulatory Commission 3 1 14 5
Small Business Administration 4 2 14 6
Department of State 361 282 4 14
Department of Transportation 35 31 13 15
Department of Treasury 42 29 10 10
U.S. Agency for International Development 2 1 15 6
U.S. Department of Agriculture 46 7 6 3
Department of Veterans Affairs 87 4 3 1

Hardly surprising, DoD tips the scale as the sumo with 772 data centers. And, according to the OMB diet, the armed services have the most weight to drop - 344 data centers. It'd be interesting to get that breakout by service branch... VA is going to be living on celery for the foreseeable future. Interior, State, HHS, and USDA all make the scales creak. Cutting the data by relative versus absolute weight loss targets shows us why VA may be reaching for "Fen-Phen" - and may raise questions about the health implications of the diet velocity. Looking past VA, it reveals DHS, USDA, and GSA all face tough pound-for-pound targets.

To be sure, the diet's not going to be an easy pill for agencies to swallow. Dr. Kundra deserves high marks for giving a definitive diagnosis - no qualitative TQM or BPR prevarication here. This is a bold new treatment. But, questions remain. Incentives - where's the stick, carrots, and is OMB eating its own dog food? Accuracy of the scales - is counting data centers a meaningful metric? Viability of the nutritional substitution plan - where's the South Beach cookbook and what happens if the “Open Table” is bare? Do data center “owners” really own them - or is there more than one person on the scales?
As Kundra, M.D. points to data center consolidation as the funding source for his cloud vision, only time will tell if he succeeds in getting Feds to shed their IT bulge. By being so direct about the number, the reduction goal, and the timeline - what happens if the pounds don’t come off? 2015 is over the horizon - who’ll be in charge at OMB and the agencies to get back on the scale? Unlike the reality show, there are many, many variables in this equation. If we don’t get it right, then who’s the biggest loser?

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Posted: 2/15/2011 - 6 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

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Mention the E word as a cure for what ails America and - no "Depends" about it - you'll get a sharp clip 'round the ear with a walker. That said, nobody'd propose asking a 200-year-old man to carry the mail or shoulder arms. But that's precisely what we're asking of geriatric Federal IT systems. A new MeriTalk study Federal Application Modernization Road Trip - now that's a catchy title - carbon dates and stress tests our mission-critical IT apps. Based on a survey of 166 Fed C-level and senior IT managers, the study finds we're now spending about half of our IT budget - $35.7 billion - each year on bedside care for Uncle Sam's digital dinosaurs.

What's heating up the cost of hard-drive healthcare? Forty-seven percent of Fed IT execs point to outdated apps technology in their diagnosis. But if the cause is apparent, are agencies ready for the cure? Two-thirds of Fed IT execs say application modernization is not a priority in their agency. We all know that money's tight, but when communication starts to fail, what hope is there for the patient? Fifty-six percent of Fed IT leaders said their departments don't fully understand their agency's application modernization goals. Given the condition of the patient, the fact that 60 percent of Fed IT execs said it will take three years or longer to modernize begs the question - what happens to America when computing crones collapse while issuing benefit checks?
So, is “Throw Mama from the Train” really the answer? Client-server systems at ease - the obvious answer is no. If we switch off yesterday without building tomorrow, planes will literally drop out of the sky.
But, here’s a pill that’s going to be hard to swallow for “down-with-big-government” America. We need to spend money to save money. Yes, it’s data center consolidation and cloud. It’s also operating system and application rationalization and modernization. We need both to see real savings. After all, RoI includes both R and I. And, somebody needs to take this “unpleasant” prescription to the Hill - building a compelling business case for Federal IT’s future to avoid the policy dementia that will condemn us to repeating yesterday’s costly mistakes.


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Posted: 2/2/2011 - 7 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

Did Oswald fly solo? Conspiracy theories abound. What’s with the revolution in Egypt? Wander off the front page, read other news, and think. Who’s masterminding the revolution? What role does the Muslim Brotherhood play? How much control does Mr. Ahmadinejad and Xerxes’ forces exercise within the fraternity - how quickly they forget the Green Revolution? Was the revolution in Tunisia a stalking horse for chaos among the pyramids? Why's nobody talking about the parallel between the rising in Cairo and the events that inserted ayatollah into everyday usage in the ‘70s?

As Pakistan revs up its fissile fuel function, and Afghanis stone Romeo and Juliet for sport, the Muslim world has the juice, trigger, and zeal to change the landscape - worldwide. At the same time, the falling masonry in Cairo’s freaking out other Arab dictators - from Jordan to the West Bank. And revolutionaries are reportedly on the hoof in Yemen and Syria.
Oh, and let’s not forget Israel. Anwar Sadat’s peace deal seems gallows bound. That peace accord let Israel cut defense spending from 23 percent to just nine percent of GDP. America currently provides more than $1 billion in aid to Israel each year. That number will doubtless jump north if the détente is deceased. The timing could not be worse for a cash-strapped Uncle Sam.
And, speaking of America, to quote comic genius Oliver Hardy, where do we sit in this "fine mess?” Isn’t it sadly ironic we again backed the anti-democratic, strongman, Arab dictator - can you say Saddam Hussein? When will we learn from history? Don’t you find it prophetic that the names of our current champions of the Western way in the Middle East, Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan and Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq, are euphemisms for toilet - khazi - and, well, malarkey
When President Obama gave his historic speech in Cairo two years ago, many held great hopes for the dawning of a new age. Today, we find ourselves “stuck in the middle” with the Arabs and the Israelis. We have no option but to engage - and can only hope that a broader U.S. military engagement in the Middle East is not in the cards.

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