Energy inventory missed 500 data centers

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Those omitted from a count the department sent OMB are managed mostly by contractors.

The Energy Department’s July 2011 inventory of its data centers neglected to include more than 500 centers managed by contractors, the department’s internal auditor said Thursday.

Energy told the Office of Management and Budget that month it was operating only 58 federal data centers, excluding at least 520 contractor-operated centers totaling 314,000 square feet, the department’s Inspector General Gregory Friedman said in the report.

“We noted that omissions of contractor-operated data centers continued despite OMB’s request that the department resubmit an updated and complete final inventory prior to Dec. 31, 2010,” the audit said.

The 520 uncounted facilities all meet an old OMB definition that included only data centers larger than 500 square feet, Rick Hass, Energy's deputy inspector general, told Nextgov.

In October 2011, the Obama administration expanded the definition of data centers to also include everything from smaller centers down to server closets. Under the new definition, the number of uncounted data centers at Energy could be significantly larger.

Federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel expects to save $5 billion dollars by closing and consolidating government data centers.

Under the expanded definition, VanRoekel’s office has counted 2,800 total federal data centers based on counts similar to Energy’s. VanRoekel expects to close or consolidate 472 of those centers by the end of 2012 and 962 or more by 2015.

According to the auditors’ report, Energy failed to introduce several energy efficiency measures in its data centers that could result in significant cost savings.

“For instance, IT server racks in 43 of 77 data centers reviewed were not configured using hot/cold rows to maximize energy efficiencies,” the report said.

Officials also have not introduced several low-cost or free measures to increase air circulation through data centers, which reduces energy efficiency and raises costs, the report said.

“For example, improvements such as perforated tiles that direct air flow from the floor to the servers were placed in less than optimal locations, and blanking panels and floor skirting typically used to prevent hot and cold air from mixing within or beneath server racks were not used consistently,” the report said.

Data centers also included a lot of empty space, which contributes to higher cost, according to the report.

Of 77 data centers the auditors examined, about 74,000 square feet, or 26 percent of the data center space, was vacant or underutilized, the report said.

Energy officials agreed with the auditors’ conclusions and said they plan to improve energy efficiency practices, the report said.

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