Government Owned Data Centers: Everything From Ground Bars to Utility Cabinets

Data centers and other IT facilities have been facing a rising amount of criticism from environmental groups and the general public over the last few years, owing mainly to the amount of energy that they consume annually. In countries such as the United States it is said that data installations account for over 1.5 percent of all energy consumed by the nation every year which has forced many centers to refit their entire operation with new utility cabinets, generators and anything that will conserve any amount of energy. For some, this has even meant shutting down lighting and personal cooling.

The focus of most of the discussion and denigration regarding data center energy utilization in most regions in America, are large private corporations and companies such as Google, Yahoo and Facebook. Many people would however, be interested to know that government owned installations throughout the United State consumed a massive 740 million dollars worth of electrical energy in 2011, which accounted for roughly 10 percent of the total electrical energy utilized by the nation’s data centers.

The government themselves have realized that this level of energy utilization is completely unsustainable, and as such, have set about consolidating the approximate 2000 data centers that currently exist throughout the country, into roughly 1200 installations. This move is estimated to have the potential to save over 5 billion dollars per year, however more action is needed in order to reduce the environmental effect of government operated data facilities.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has consequently gotten on board and signed an executive order (executive order 13423) requiring the federal government to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions via the reduction of their energy consumption by 30 percent by 2015. The order also requires that governmental data establishments purchase and use ‘Energy Star’ rated components, such as computers and monitors.

Some governmental agencies, such as the US Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture are taking this order very seriously, and are carrying out a significant range of alterations within their data centers. Some of these changes include: stringently monitoring data center power usage; eliminating unnecessary equipment; increasing server virtualization; and consolidating server rooms.

The US Department of Energy has also created the ‘Federal Partnership for Green Data Centers’, which aims to facilitate communication between different government departments, in an attempt to promote data center energy efficiency. It is believed that many of these departments could possibly share data installations however, some departments are described as ‘territorial’ when it comes to their data facilities.

Government Lockdown on Everything from Utility Cabinets to Data Servers

Government departments which store large amounts of sensitive information are especially problematic. Departments such as the CIA have been said to possess surplus data center resources however, they are unwilling to share them due to security fears. The right-sizing, or partial sharing of these facilities with other departments, would consequently be beneficial as it would result in significant energy savings.

In conclusion it can be seen that the United States governments has a long way to go before it is in a position to criticize the public sector. It is believed that the number of data centers run by the government could be further reduced if governmental departments were not so territorial, and could share facilities, rather than requiring large individual installations. The executive order enforced by the EPA is however, a big step in the right direction.