NASA’s deputy CIO Deborah Diaz doesn’t just talk about data center consolidation. She’s rolling up her sleeves and making it happen at the space agency.

Since Diaz joined NASA in 2009, she’s been responsible for shrinking the number of data centers from 79 to 54 and eventually to 22, driven by the Obama administration’s effort to eliminate excessive and duplicative services.

“We have huge data stores that have been growing exponentially,” Diaz told Breaking Gov. “We are looking at each of the different data centers, what can be consolidated and how to reduce the footprint. We are revalidating what the need is.”
Diaz is part of the 21st century workforce at NASA dedicated to reshaping a changing agency, using technology to make it better and finding new ways of working with its $17.8 billion budget for fiscal 2012, $648 million less than requested.

The lessons learned from her work could be used by other agencies, including how to adapt a GIS floor plan to identify hot spots and improve energy efficiency and its work on data center consolidation. She’s already giving other agencies pointers on what NASA has learned in its work.

Deborah is possibly one of the most innovative people I’ve had a chance to work with at the agency. She’s really open minded and forward leaning with how she applies IT technology to NASA’s mission.” – Nicholas Skytland

As part of the evaluation process for consolidation, Diaz and her team evaluated what can be best positioned in a data center and what should be placed in the cloud.

On her agenda:

  • Eliminating underutilized facilities, systems and applications; reducing physical and energy utilization. Using energy metering at all data centers
  • Deploying a dashboard to monitor and track consolidation process
  • Aggressively working to eliminate “server rooms”
  • Making it easier to get data center information
  • Improving security and operational efficiencies using industry best practices

“The rapid pace with which cloud computing is maturing leads us to understand that NASA will have significantly reduced requirements for data centers in the future as we increasingly leverage cloud computing capabilities,” NASA said on its website.

Diaz is embracing this challenge: “I am championing the use of cloud for consolidation,” she said.

She’s also eliminated 19 server rooms – 23,000 square feet of office space at NASA’s many locations.

“We’re aggressively eliminating server rooms and putting them in places more appropriate rather than under a NASA staffer’s desk,” she said.

Nicholas Skytland, program manager for the NASA Open Government Initiative, said Diaz is skillful at understanding the leading trends in technology and how they can help NASA’s mission.

“Deborah is possibly one of the most innovative people I’ve had a chance to work with at the agency,” Skytland said. “She’s really open minded and forward leaning with how she applies IT technology to NASA’s mission.”

In addition to data consolidation, her projects include:

  • Open government: Sharing NASA data with the public.
  • Open source: “She is constantly trying to think of new ways to release software and work with public,” Skytland said.
  • The international space apps challenge – a two-day event to tap into citizens from around the world in a virtual contest to come up with solutions using space data that impacts humanity.
  • – a directory of every NASA data site to improve access to NASA data. This data catalog is a continually-growing listing of publicly available NASA datasets.
  • A push for widespread telecommuting. Last month, Diaz and NASA’s CIO team across the country spent a week teleworking instead of reporting to their offices to develop a model for offsite work.
  • Meeting regularly with the Federal CIO Council’s data center initiative to report on NASA’s progress and share success stories with other agencies.
  • Pushing for NASA to expand its use of social media. The space agency was the first federal agency to set up a Google + account. NASA’s Twitter feed has 1.6 million followers, and the public can connect on a wide variety of sites
  • Testing numerous agency cloud projects, including geospatial services and “Be a Martian” project, where the public can virtually explore Mars. Middle school students can drive the Mars Rover with an iPad app.

As part of NASA’s open government work led by Diaz and a team of forward thinkers, NASA’s plan as part of President Obama’s Open Government Directive was rated first this year out of 29 agency submissions by, a group of organizations and advocates concerned with government transparency.

Diaz is an experienced IT executive. Prior to NASA, she was the CIO for the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, where she developed and implemented $1 billion of high-profile, ground-breaking scientific programs and IT infrastructure.

Every job has been the “best job” she’s ever had, Diaz said.

A mother, a pilot, an IT innovator, Diaz is definitely a change agent looking for ways to make NASA better.

Her 2012 to-do list?

“We are always trying to open the data to the public and scientists. In the innovative space, we’re looking into ways to visualize and interact with our partners. And we’re always looking to synthesize huge data sets,” she said.