Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Green IT Requirements for Australian Government Data Centre Facilities

The Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) has released a "Data Centre Facilities Statement of Requirements – Draft " (25 June 2010), which includes requirements for sustainable (Green) IT. The only firm requirement included is certification to the Environmental Management Systems (EMS) ISO14001 standard, or equivalent. There are no mandatory requirements for energy saving, materials recycling or reporting in the draft. This is despite requirements placed on government agencies to do so. As an example, modern data centres report the energy used by client equipment, so this can be included in mandatory government energy and greenhouse gas reporting. The draft AGIMO document includes no requirement for such reporting, so that Government CIOs would be unable to comply with reporting requirements.

A "Whole-of-Government ICT Sustainability Plan" was to be developed by the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) in conjunction with the Department of Finance and Deregulation (Finance) by December 2009. However, the plan has not yet been released. In the interim, suitable standards and applicable laws are detailed in my book "Green Technology Strategies: Using computers and telecommunications to reduce carbon emissions". Several students undertaking my courses in Green IT have written green ICT reports for their agencies as course assignments. The courses are available through the Australian Computer Society, the Australian national University and Open Universities Australia. Currently I have students studying Green ICT, including several preparing reports for major government agencies The next course starts at ANU in a few weeks time and enrolments are now open. The course will be updated when the Whole-of-Government ICT Sustainability Plan is available. Also sustainable IT is one of the topics for the World Computer Congress 2010, to be held in Brisbane in September. Several of the architects of Australian green IT plans and training will be speaking there (I will be talking about green IT training for professionals).

A Request for Tender (RFT) is planned to be issued for a panel of suppliers for the bulk of data centre facilities to the Australian Government agencies. However, as the ICT sustainability plan is now six months late, it is not clear when the RFT may be issued.

There are several interesting aspects to the draft document: apart from the large scale of the services required, the way the draft was released is of interest.

The draft requirements was announced online by Kayelle Wiltshire, Assistant Secretary of the Central Facilities Branch,AGIMO, in what is essentially a first person blog, without the usual third person, hard to understand official bureaucratic language. Comments are invited to the blog.

AGIMO are acknowledging and referencing a previous Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) "Whole-of-Government Data Centre Strategy: Industry Best Practice Principles" (AIIA, 29 May 2010). It is unusual for an agency to acknowledge the input of an industry body so directly.

What also makes the AGIMO data centre initiative different is the use of HTML. Usually government reports are provided in large, hard to download, hard to read PDF documents. In the case AGIMO have provided web page versions of not only its own documents, but the AIIA report as well (the documents are also offered in PDF and RTF formats. One improvement AGIMO could make would be to list the HTML version first, rather than last. May people are likely to click on the first link they see and end up with a PDF file download they did not really want.

Green IT for Australian Government Data Centres

The AIIA report cited by AGIO includes a section on "Green IT':

Government should be clear on its commitment to ‘Green’ technologies and encourage innovation and commitment from industry in this area. Climate factors of a location that enable efficiency should be included in the consideration.

The AIIA report cites:
  1. "Data Centre Certification Ramps Up", Bianca Wirth, GreenITStrategy.com, 6 April 2010
  2. Data Centre Design Guide, Presentation by Jon Haas and Tony Pierce, The Green Grid, 4 February 2009

The draft statement of requirements includes a section on "Sustainability":

8.28 The Australian Government encourages “Green IT” and other environmental initiatives where possible, such as the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, use of fossil fuel energy, use of water and e-waste.

8.29 The Tenderer should provide details of any Green Power (from renewable sources) used in data centre facilities.

8.30 The Tenderer should be certified to Environmental Management Systems (EMS) ISO14001 or to an equivalent environmental management standard, such as the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). If the Tenderer is not certified, the Tenderer should commit to be certified within 12 months of joining the panel of data centre Providers.

8.31 The Tenderer should provide the current greenhouse gas emission baseline for data centre facilities and plans, if any, for upgrades to infrastructure to reduce the greenhouse gas footprint.

8.32 It is desirable that the data centre operation minimises the use of water and power. The Tenderer should detail how this can be achieved.

Green issues are also mentioned in the section on Un-interruptable Power Supplies (UPS):

8.16 The Tenderer should provide evidence of green initiatives in UPS design that demonstrates the use of non-chemical based UPS systems and the reduction in the use of harmful chemicals in the UPS.

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