While the Federal government continues to preach IT modernization and data center shutdowns, the odds are mounting.

“We’re talking about dismantling $8 billion of technical debt to make the progress necessary,” said Steve Harris, senior vice president and general manager, Dell EMC. “It’s like harboring billions of dollars of credit card debt. If you don’t eradicate the principal, it’s only going to get worse every month it goes by.”

Agencies are being instructed en masse to consolidate data centers by 2020, but many don’t have the funding necessary to get there. Allies in government know the situation needs an overhaul.

“We’re in a death spiral situation where agencies are starved for the capital they need to do what they need to do,” said Dominic Sale, assistant commissioner of operations for the Federal Acquisitions Service’s Technology Transformation Services, a wing of the General Service Administration that aids in creating better citizen services. “You can’t do what you need to do to serve the citizenry without attacking IT first.”

Agencies need a plan that lays bare the cost savings.

“I don’t think 2020 is a realistic goal to have everything finalized and modernized,” said Rob Davies, executive vice president, operations, ViON. “[Agencies need to] pick systems that are the biggest drag or require tremendous amount of funding to keep operating. Have a plan to modernize those systems or make the value proposition better. That’s very realistic.”

Davies says a focused plan will be more attractive to two sources of potential funding: the Technology Modernization Fund board, and an agency’s own CFO. Following through on that plan, and any future modernization investments, will require an agency workforce in tune with its IT environment.

“In the past, there were situations where agencies had essentially outsourced much of their IT functions, and it was a failure because the government didn’t do enough to ensure that accountability, [and] visibility into the contract,” Sale said. “There’s a clear role for government. There’s a clear role for industry. The devil is in the details in that middle space, where government cannot abdicate the responsibility for understanding, for having visibility into the technologies.”

The full discussion, which also hits on ways to leverage hyperconverged infrastructure to yield data center dividends, is available here.

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Joe Franco
Joe Franco
Joe Franco is a Program Manager, covering IT modernization, cyber, and government IT policy for MeriTalk.com.