Feds to Save $700K a Year With Data Center Consolidation

Feds to Save $700K a Year With Data Center Consolidation

It's hard to think of the staid halls of Congress as a particularly high-tech place, but the sausage-making process of creating laws for the county relies on a significant amount of energy, especially for computing power.

As part of a wide-ranging Green the Capitol effort, the U.S. House of Representatives have lately begun streamlining their IT infrastructure as one way to achieve its goal of using 50 percent less energy by 2020.

The project has earned accolades from green IT groups, while also saving taxpayers big bucks. Last week at the Uptime Institute's annual Symposium, the House of Representatives was one of the winners of the Green Enterprise IT Awards, for IT Innovation.

Over at ZDNet, Heather Clancy writes up some of the successes the House achieved in its green IT overhaul:

• The group reduced approximately 85 Windows-based product servers down to 8 host servers. It now only has 12 Unix servers, down from 35, and it reduced 180 test servers down onto a single rack.
• The number of computer room air-conditioning units was cut to 6 units from 14 units at the start of the consolidation.
• The data center IT equipment now consumes 125 kilowatts, down from 500 kilowatts (that's $1,000 in savings per day, according to Nichols)
• Power consumed by the cooling units was reduced to less than 350 kilowatts from 750 kilowatts (another $1,000 daily in electricity bill savings).

Here are some tips from [director of enterprise operations for the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer Jack] Nichols for those of you undertaking similar initiatives as a green IT exercise:
1. Baseline your infrastructure: Take time to measure utilization. In the case of the House data center, some servers were utilized only 5 percent.
2. Balance the mathematical promise of virtualization against business application value: Nichols reminds IT managers that they need to spend time understanding the value of certain applications and pick battles you're like to win easily rather than focus on technologies that may be harder to justify changing.
3. Don't underestimate the impact of rightsizing: While it's great to standardize on a minimal number of server configurations, this can result in over-provisioning.
4. Involve key stakeholders early and often: Not only do you need their buy-in to move forward, but you can make THEM look like the heroes in the consolidation. You might also come across new services that are made possible by your consolidation. For example, the House data center is now being used to consolidate some of the IT functions of the branch offices (think "cloud" services), which is like to result in another wave of efficiency.
5. Be prepared to redefine traditional IT roles: If your network administrators, server team, security engineers and storage specialists are working in their own siloes, you will not be able to realize the full potential of a green IT effort.

The House of Representatives is not the first branch of the government to see big gains from green IT, of course. Back in early 2008, the government required the purchase of EPEAT-certified computers, driving up the energy efficiency of its IT fleet. And across the pond, the U.K. government is is saving millions of pounds per year through simple IT projects.

But of course there's still plenty of room for improvement: A report published last year found that the government wastes $440 million a year in paper from needless printing, and another study later that year said the feds are lagging in adoption of virtualization technology.

Capitol photo CC-licensed by Flickr user BlankBlankBlank.