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Datacentres are a key focus for government’s Green ICT Delivery Unit

Archana Venkatraman

With the increase in the use of online services for government transactions, datacentres are a key focus of the government’s green IT strategy and the Green ICT Delivery Unit (GDU), according to its report.  

Over 80% of HMRC’s tax returns are submitted via the internet, suggesting the growing importance of public sector datacentres.

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As a result, the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) is setting out best practice guidelines for public sector organisations to procure energy efficient datacentre and cloud hosting services. The guidance has been discussed with Intellect, the UK industry body and there have also been discussions with the European Commission (EC) via its EU-wide Green Public Procurement process.

The Greening Government: ICT Annual Report 2013 by Jennifer Rigby, chair of GDU and John Taylor, SRO for Green ICT and CIO at MoD also praised government CIOs and IT staff’s progress in implementing green IT strategies.

It noted that four government departments have endorsed the EU’s code of conduct for datacentres over the past year and many other departments are also looking to achieve this goal.

The EU datacentre efficiency code is a voluntary initiative created in response to increasing energy consumption in datacentres and the need to reduce their environmental impact. It aims to stimulate datacentre operators and owners to reduce energy consumption in a cost-effective manner without affecting the mission critical function of datacentres

In addition, many datacentres used by suppliers to government are also participants under the code, according to the report’s authors.

Among specific datacentre efficiencies achieved by individual departments between 2012 and 2013, the Home Office achieved datacentre efficiency by installing advanced water cooling infrastructure saving 428 tonnes of CO2 every year; installing more efficient UPSs and raising datacentre temperatures from 21ºC to a maximum of 24ºC to reduce power usage of chillers.

Meanwhile, the Department for Education implemented a thin-client infrastructure for shared resources. It dramatically slashed energy consumption of the desktops despite being slightly off-set by additional equipment in the datacentre.

Another public sector organisation, the Department for International Development implemented server consolidation project to cut its server estate from 304 to 95 servers to save £30,000.

GDU is the forum created to develop efficient IT strategies for government departments and drive their implementation. It developed a green IT maturity model and set the target for public sector departments to achieve level 3 of maturity by 2015.

The average green IT maturity score for departments is 2.9 compared with 2.4 last year, the report found.

But the authors have also outlined the challenges of implementing green IT initiatives in government departments.

“It remains a challenge to ensure open and consistent reporting of green IT data across departments and commercial frameworks. Often departments have contracts in place which predate reporting requirements,” Rigby and Taylor said.

Also, a lack of consistency in methodologies across government results in gaps in GDU’s understanding of progress.

“As government drives efficiencies with the introduction of flexible contracts (for example, through the government CloudStore) and shifts towards new service platforms the challenge is to deliver consistent, simple and relevant environmental reporting for IT,” they added.

“We are keen to be greener, not only to save on emissions, water and waste, but also to save money wherever possible.

Government IT is on a journey of rapid change including the use of better, cheaper, commodity and cloud-based services. Green is still hugely important as part of this journey, they said.


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