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Former U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra on Thursday presented a unique case study about building efficient IT infrastructure featuring the biggest customer of all, the federal government.
Kundra, who between 2009 and 2011 served as the first CIO of the U.S. government under President Barak Obama, shared his experience in driving IT efficiencies with a large crowd of customers and partners at the Dell World conference, held this week in Austin, Texas.
Kundra, who was brought on-stage by Paul Bell, president of large and public enterprise at Dell, said the government spends about $80 billion per year on IT, and has about 12,000 major systems across the globe, ranging from the Social Security Administration to the Environmental Protection Agency to the Department of Defense.
Streamlining that huge and fractured IT infrastructure presented a real opportunity to not only cut costs but also to increase efficiencies, Kundra said. "(We started to) fundamentally think about the way the United States works," he said.
Kundra's job started in November of 2008 after Obama won the election, when he started gathering information what the government needed from IT. He officially took the CIO role after Obama was sworn in.
On his first day at the White House, Kundra was greeted by staffers who, instead of carrying smart devices, handed him a pile of papers. "'Here's a stack of .PDF documents about $27 billion of IT projects behind schedule,'" Kundra recalled them saying.
When he asked the staffers why they didn't have mobile devices, they answered that such devices were passed out based on seniority, and that there was a long wait list to get one. "I first realized the challenges facing the nation," he said.
The problem was not a lack of spending, Kundra said. Indeed, the government had spent over $600 billion over the last decade on modernizing IT.
Kundra identified four major priorities to rein in IT spending and increase efficiency for the U.S. government: better utilization of $80 billion the government was spending on IT; finding new IT efficiencies; bringing security front and center, and creating a more open and transparent government.
Finding ways to better use the $80 million the government was spending on IT each year required the elimination of wasted IT spending. Kundra said his first task was to set up a dashboard which showed up-to-date information on spending for each department.
Kundra said he found things like the Department of Defense spending $850 million over 10 years on an ERP system that didn't work, and the head of the Department of the Interior not being able to send e-mails to all his personnel because the department was supporting 13 different e-mail systems. He said reduced wasteful spending by $3 billion a year by cutting out such efficiencies.
For the second priority, finding new IT efficiencies, Kundra said he looked at how the government handled its data centers. He said that the government went from 432 data centers to over 2,000 data centers in 10 years, leading to an average processor utilization rate of under 27 percent and an average storage utilization rate of under 40 percent. He compared that to the average manufacturer which enjoys utilization rates of 80 percent.
Kundra then developed a plan to shut down 800 government data centers by 2013, and that 137 have already been shut down. "In my view, the government should have only three Ft. Knox-like data centers," he said.
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