New Opportunities in the Government Sector: Part 1

Across the world there are new opportunities for data center and IT consulting companies to capitalize on the consolidation projects being launched in the Government sector.  Like commercial enterprises, governments focusing on governance (no pun intended) of IT see the benefits of consolidation of the data processing footprint.  Also like commercial enterprises, governments have business silos (perhaps even more so than commercial enterprises), with duplication of functions and roles, overlapping systems and technology, as well as lots and lots of waste.  Consolidation portends cost savings through elimination of non-beneficial redundancies, and better application of good governance processes to the holistic IT environment.

In the government sector, these projects are big.  Really big.  In a series of posts, we’ll cover several countries around the globe in which the government is planning large scale data center consolidations.

Part 1:  United States of America

In the United States (my home country), the federal government has embarked upon a six-month planning cycle to address data center sprawl.  Federal CIO, Vivek Kundra, instructed federal agency CIO’s to embark on a broad consolidation initiative to bring control to the government’s data center sprawl (now counting over 1,000 data centers).  Goals of the initiative include:

Solar Power Incentives from US Government

We’ve talked about wind power for data centers and mission critical facilities, and often the subject of solar power comes up in those same conversations.¬† Dedicated commercial solar installations generating more than a megawatt are rare, and as such have very limited contribution as an energy alternative for data centers.¬† There is growing interest though, in the implementation of solar generating capacity for a slightly different reason.

Green Data Centers: Some things are easier than others

When recently interviewed for a magazine article, I was asked about Green initiatives by data center operators.  There are lots of innovative techniques for reducing power consumption in data centers, and lots of ways to apply renewable resources.  The fact of the matter is that for the data center operator, some of the options are compelling, some are possible but not very compelling, and others are compelling but not reasonably possible.

Wind Power for Data Centers

The challenge in using green energy alternatives such as wind or solar power in data centers is power density.   Data centers consume a lot of power with respect to their physical footprint, so they need very large solar arrays or large wind turbine farms to generate the necessary power for the facility.  Consequently, the amount of time required to reach the positive ROI point with the solar or wind power equipment is typically quite long.  This economic detail is often the inflection point for deciding whether to apply green energy alternatives in the data center plan.

Container Data Centers: A Step Along the Green Path

As a bit of background and at the risk of stating the obvious, let’s quickly review some basics about energy efficiency and the Data Center.  It has been estimated that on average, electricity costs account for over 40% of data center operational expenses.  In 2006, American data centers consumed more electricity than all the televisions in America.  The cost to power a typical server now exceeds the cost to buy it, when viewed over a three-year horizon.  Data Centers typically operate more than 2.5 times the cooling capacity needed to maintain the IT equipment.  On average, less than 50% of the cool air in a chilled-air data center actually makes it to the IT equipment.

Those first few points are likely already well understood by the reader, or are at least consistent with other similar metrics quoted in the Green dialogue.  The last one, which speaks to the challenges of efficiently cooling IT equipment, is what I’d like to talk about in more depth.

Update on Cargo Ship Data Centers

I promised an update on the progress of the ship-based data center concept floated (yes a pun) by International Data Security (IDS). A recent post on Silverback’s blog explains that the first launch (perhaps a pun) is now delayed until Q3 of 2008, and gives a few more details.

IDS continues to see the ship-based data center concept as a lucrative opportunity, given the continued demand for data center space, the notion that ship-based data centers can reduce the time to market by as much as 65% and that the Cap-Ex is estimated to be a third less than a comparable brick and mortar facility.

Paint Your Moose Green

In these times of economic stagnation, IT leaders’ attention turns to cost savings.   Indeed in times like these, the CFO is likely exerting strong authority and demanding budget concessions from departments across the enterprise.

Many companies are aggressively consolidating data centers as one way to address this demand.   There are a number of significant cost savings opportunities with data center consolidation, in spite of the complexity involved in successfully executing a consolidation plan.   Many of those, in turn, come from savings due to increased efficiencies of operation as compared to the pre-consolidated state of affairs.   In particular, we’re talking about efficiencies from removing redundancy of maintenance costs, and centralized control of operational and support expenses.