Obama Orders Federal Data Center Consolidation, Expects $3B in Savings

WASHINGTON, DC — President Obama last week opened up a new front in the war for green IT in the government, with the signing of a memorandum aimed at shrinking the federal government's stock of data centers.

As part of an overarching attempt to reduce the government's real estate costs -- as well as the energy and resource use associated with real estate -- the memorandum requires agencies to work toward a target of $3 billion in cost savings by 2015. Data centers, far from the largest slice of the government's property footprint but a huge part of its energy consumption, were singled out for special efforts. The memorandum reads in part:

For example, over the past decade, the private sector reduced its data center footprint by capitalizing on innovative technologies to increase efficiencies. However, during that same period, the Federal Government experienced a substantial increase in the number of data centers, leading to increased energy consumption, real property expenditures, and operations and maintenance costs....

In addition, in order to address the growth of data centers across the Federal Government, agencies shall immediately adopt a policy against expanding data centers beyond current levels, and shall develop plans to consolidate and significantly reduce data centers within 5 years.

The memo requires agencies to file plans by August 30.

The federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) states that there are currently about 1,100 data centers owned by the government, up from 432 in 1998.

The president's move follows on a string of green IT-related moves since taking office nearly 18 months ago. Starting right off the bat, the day after Obama's inauguration we reported that IBM CEO Samuel J. Palmisano urged Obama to make all federal data centers green within three years. Although the White House passed on that advice, the federal stimulus funding offered a big boost to green IT initiatives, and Obama's CTO, Aneesh Chopra, has taken a number of pro-green IT stances.

Across the pond, the U.K.'s government has already made big progress on its own green IT initiatives, with a number of simple projects saving millions of pounds per year in energy costs.