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Lawmakers Prod Agencies to Retool Energy-Guzzling Data Centers

Oleksiy Mark/Shutterstock.com

Federal agencies have eliminated some 1,200 federal data centers over the past five years and about 2,600 more are expected to get the ax shortly as part of an effort to cut federal IT costs. But lawmakers think it might take more than consolidation to tame these notorious energy guzzlers.

There’s still a ways to go before federal centers are fully optimized.

Currently, the two dozen agency data centers included in the consolidation legislation are using less than half the available facility space and only about half the available storage at their data centers, according to new figures posted on the IT Dashboard.

New legislation would further prod agencies in the direction of energy efficiency.

In March, Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., introduced the Energy Efficiency Government Technology Act, which would require federal data centers to run on more energy-efficient technologies.

“Ten exabytes of data per day travel our global networks and this rate is growing rapidly,” Eshoo said in a statement. “This data must be stored and processed at vast data centers which can be highly energy inefficient, wasting money and precious energy resources.”

The bill would require agencies create a plan for buying and using energy-efficient and energy-saving IT according to a series of performance goals set by the Office of Management and Budget and the Energy secretary.

The bill would also require regular evaluation of how energy efficient agencies’ data centers are.

Implementing best practices could reduce energy use by as much as 90 percent and energy-related costs by about 30 percent, according to Eshoo’s office.

Overall, data center closures under the administration’s initiative have saved almost $2 billion. Still, there’s consistently been money left on the table.

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Agencies could save almost $6 billion more, according to Dave Powner, director of IT management issues at the Government Accountability Office.

“By finishing out data center consolidation and optimization, you have savings and some of that will be energy,” Powner said in an interview with Nextgov. “What the bill could do, is it could take -- if implemented appropriately -- it could take the energy metrics to even a more detailed, higher level.”

He added: “Right now, we've got a great initiative: We can close centers, we can save money, there will be energy savings on that alone . . . So in some ways, this bill kind of reinforces what OMB is already telling agencies to do."

(Image via Oleksiy Mark/ Shutterstock.com)

By Hallie Golden May 8, 2015

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