Federal data centers face new energy test

U.S. government data centers will have to meet tough new energy efficiency standards or else face closure, under a new plan being pushed by federal CIO Tony Scott.

U.S. government data centers will have to meet tough new energy efficiency standards or else face closure under a new plan pushed by federal CIO Tony Scott.

The draft Data Center Optimization Initiative, scheduled for publication Wednesday, is planned to supersede the 2010 Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative, which sought to promote the use of “green” IT and reduce duplication and inefficiencies in the feds’ use of data centers.

The draft memorandum takes advantage of new authorities granted to federal CIOs by the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, or FITARA, according to a blog posting.

The new plan aims to implement steps called for in President Barack Obama’s executive order 13693, “Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade,” including the installation of automated energy metering tools in all 11,000 government data centers around the country. It would also hold all “tiered” data centers to a power usage effectiveness, or PUE, standard, calculated by dividing the amount of power entering a data center by the power used to run the data center computing infrastructure.


A tiered data center is defined as one that houses a separate physical space for IT infrastructure, an uninterruptible power supply, an independent cooling system, and a backup power generator for prolonged power outages. Such centers are less efficient than their non-tiered counterparts due to their size and complexity.

The Data Center Optimization Initiative sets the benchmark PUE at 1.5, and stipulates that any tiered data centers incapable of meeting it must consider closure or consolidation via alternative means, such as movement to the cloud or to interagency shared services data centers. While non-tiered data centers would be equipped with automated energy meters under the new plan, they would not be held to PUE standards.

Data centers constructed after the policy takes effect would be held to a higher standard than those already in operation: The policy demands that all new tiered data centers be designed to operate at a maximum PUE 1.4, and encourages them to achieve a PUE of 1.2 or below.

The plan mandates the General Services Administration to form an acquisition vehicle to facilitate the procurement of automated metric tools and empowers Scott to block agencies from issuing new solicitations without a developed business case that establishes the need for the separate procurement. 

The initiative fulfills a clause in FITARA that requires Scott to produce optimization strategies and provide public updates on efforts to rein in data centers’ drain on the power grid. In all, it is projected to save $1.4 billion by the close of 2018. Its enactment would see the closure of 52 percent of federal data centers, according to a briefing.

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