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GSA Plans Data Center Consolidation

As part of its sustainability plan, the General Services Administration plans to install advanced energy meters in all of its data centers by year end and reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2020.

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The General Services Administration (GSA) will leverage virtualization and data-center consolidation as part of its plan to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 30 percent by 2020. Via an executive order, the Obama administration has required all federal agencies to release sustainability performance plans for reducing GHG emissions. The White House goal for reducing emissions is 28 percent.

The GSA's strategy (PDF), released Thursday alongside other agency plans, includes changes to its IT resources to achieve its own GHG-reduction goal.

The agency is currently collecting data on all of its data-center operations and is working with the Office of Management and Budget to develop a consolidation plan, which should be in place by December. The plan will include targets and standards for using the cloud to host applications where applicable; targets for reducing the number of agency data centers; targets and standards for maximizing data center efficiency, including increasing average CPU utilization rates; and goals and actions for reducing technology energy consumption. The GSA currently has three standalone data centers and seven that are commercially managed, it said.

In addition to consolidation and virtualization, the agency will practice better energy management across all of its computer hardware -- including desktops, laptops and servers -- as part of its sustainability plan.

The agency said it is purchasing new, more powerful servers that it will virtualize, and also will consolidate printers by increasing its use of digital document management.

The GSA also plans to install advanced energy meters in all of its data centers by Dec. 31 and in FY2011 will begin monitoring all data centers on an interval basis for operational control and a weekly basis for management review, according to the plan. Moreover, by 2013 the agency will achieve a Power Utilization Efficiency rating of 1.8 at all data centers.

The GSA noted some challenges to its sustainability plan, but said it will address them. Currently, most of the GSA's servers don't support power management, but the agency's roadmap for its IT infrastructure includes a five-year strategy to replace some of its old servers with Energy Star servers.

Energy Star is a joint program of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy that establishes minimum standards for energy-efficient consumer products. The agency's laptops, desktops and monitors already are 100 percent compliant with Energy Star specifications and power-management settings, it said. The GSA also must improve its power-management policies for printers and print servers, and is exploring options to increase sustainable practices in this area, it said.

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