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IRS Data Center Cooling Could Save $3 Million

A federal auditor said the agency should implement more energy efficient practices in two of its data centers.

The Internal Revenue Service could save more than $3 million over four years by implementing better cooling techniques in two of its data centers, according to an auditor's report released last month.

IRS data centers in Memphis, Tenn. and Martinsburg, W.Va., currently suffer from inadequate design in several areas that is limiting their cooling abilities, according to a report by the Treasury inspector general for tax administration (TIGTA).

The report detailed a review of IRS efforts to be more energy efficient and reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions in data centers. The audit stems from a 2007 executive order by President George W. Bush and another in 2009 by President Barack Obama to encourage federal agencies to implement better green technology practices. The latter by the Obama administration mandated more energy efficiency at federal data centers.

The TIGTA conducted the review from June 2009 through January 2010 at several IRS data centers: the Real Estate and Facilities Management organization's office in Crystal City, Va.; the Enterprise Computing Centers in Memphis and Martinsburg; and the IRS campuses in Austin, Texas, and Ogden, Utah.

Auditors found several flaws in the energy-efficiency configuration at the Martinsburg and Memphis data centers that, if fixed, would help the IRS save money.

The flaws include missing floor tiles that allow hot and cold air to mix, overworking the center's air conditioning units, and inconsistencies in the row spacing of the servers in the data center, according to the report.

The report also found that neither site had occupancy sensors to control lighting or sub-metering to monitor power consumption, nor did they have the capability to determine how energy use is distributed among computer equipment and support systems in the data center.

The TIGTA based its estimate on how much the IRS can save on fiscal year 2009 electricity costs for the Memphis and Martinsburg data centers, which were $3,060,291 and $2,057,243, respectively. It also used a report by the Tennessee Valley Authority in March 2009 that found that 31% of total electrical usage in the facilities was attributed to the data centers.

"Based on the electricity costs data for the ECC Martinsburg and ECC Memphis, we estimate that the IRS could potentially realize savings of $793,218 per year and $3,172,872 over four years for both sites if data center best practices were implemented at the two facilities," according to the report.

However, those figures do not factor in implementation costs, the TIGTA acknowledged in the report.

Still, the auditing agency said that the IRS has the potential to save a lot more if it also implemented cooling best practices in data centers at the nine other IRS campuses.

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