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Here’s the Government’s New Policy for Optimizing Data Centers

Oleksiy Mark/

A new White House policy for optimizing energy-guzzling data centers in the federal government would block agencies from budgeting any money toward new or expanding data centers without approval from the federal chief information officer.

The new Data Center Optimization Initiative “supersedes” a 2010 effort to close down data centers. The new policy emphasizes IT optimization in a bid to save more than $1 billion over the next two years, according to a draft of the new policy set to be published March 2 in the Federal Register. The new policy is posted on

Unlike the previous consolidation initiative, the new policy sets out metrics for energy metering and power efficiency.

The policy requires agencies to monitor and report the energy efficiency of data centers through a “Power Usage Effectiveness” metric, and calls for agencies to achieve and maintain a PUE of less than 1.5 for their existing data centers by Sept. 30, 2018.

New data centers are encouraged to achieve a PUE below 1.2. Agencies are directed to include PUE requirements in any future procurements involving data centers.

The policy also mandates agencies “evaluate consolidation or closure” for data centers that cannot cost effectively achieve a PUE target of 1.5 or less, and recommends transitioning them to cloud services or to shared services data centers.

Energy metering and PUE are not the only new metrics required by the new policy.

The Office of Management and Budget wants to see significant savings stemming from the optimization effort. All told, the policy aims to reduce governmentwide costs associated with physical data centers by at least 25 percent relative to fiscal 2016 IT spending data.

In actual dollars, OMB wants to save about $1.4 billion by the close of fiscal 2018.

Further, agencies will no longer classify data centers as “core” or “non-core,” but rather as “tiered” and “non-tiered.” DCOI defines tiered data centers as those that use a separate physical space for IT infrastructure, an uninterruptible power supply, an independent cooling system and a backup power generator.

While the new policy is heavy on optimization, it still calls for closing of data centers that no longer consume power or no longer house physical servers.

Updated goals set out in the new policy exceed agencies’ existing closure plans, calling for agencies to close at least 25 percent of their tiered data centers governmentwide and 60 percent of non-tiered data centers. The target date for the closures is the end of fiscal 2018.

The new goals would result in the closure of more than half -- 52 percent -- of the federal government’s overall data center inventory, according to the memo. (Currently, agencies are on track to close about 44 percent of the approximately 11,000 federal data centers.)

The public will have a 30-day comment period on the new draft policy.

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