[LINK] Data centre strategy may overload electricity grid

Bernard Robertson-Dunn brd at iimetro.com.au
Wed Oct 1 22:22:59 EST 2008

This "consolidated approach to data centre management" was what started 
the whole of government IT outsourcing push that ended in tears with the 
Humphrey report.

You'd think they would have learned by now. But learning the lesson that 
optimising one of many characteristics of a complex system can ruin the 
whole system has never come easy to those who only count the cost.


Data centre strategy may overload electricity grid
Fran Foo
September 30, 2008
Australian IT

The whole-of-government data centre strategy under review by the federal 
Government could backfire and put stress on the electricity grid, 
industry players warn.

British efficiency expert Peter Gershon, who has submitted his review of 
government procurement practices to Canberra, has called for a 
consolidated approach to data centre management.

Sir Peter warned the current arrangement for the Government's 50 data 
centres would cost an extra $1billion over 15 years to manage.

Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner said Sir Peter had recommended a 
"whole-of-government data centre strategy" to limit extra costs and the 
proposal was a "perfect illustration of the problems with 

Consolidation of data centres had to take account of the capacity and 
capabilities of indirect and of crucial suppliers such as utility 
companies, said Citrix Systems, which gets much of its business from 
federal departments and agencies.

Citrix Australia vice-president Rob Willis said any data centre 
consolidation would encounter huge challenges, as cutting the number 
from 50 to a handful would severely affect the electricity grid.

"Some of these government data centres are already very large. If we 
house a few more of them together it would create a big strain on an 
already stressed grid," Mr Willis said.

There were two main areas of concern: heat dissipation and power 

"Energy use would have to increase to manage a handful of data centres, 
as opposed to having them spread out," Mr Willis said. He cited the 
example of Citrix's data centre in Florida, which could not grow due to 
constraints on the power grid.

"The power company couldn't cope so we had to relocate to a different 
power grid," he said.

Mr Gershon said: "Consolidation is a good idea but perhaps we should 
also look at creating dynamic data centres."

Canberra is already home to mammoth data centres belonging to 
organisations such as Centrelink and the Australian Taxation Office. The 
city's main power supplier, ActewAGL, is investigating ways to expand 
beyond its single grid.

Data centre developer Technical Real Estate and ActewAGL are working on 
a $1 billion data centre project in Canberra.

The first stage, of 14 data halls, is expected to be completed by March 

Meanwhile, one company that makes its money from selling storage is 
backing Sir Peter's call for a whole-of-government data centre strategy.

The more the merrier was the wrong path to follow, Hitachi Data Systems 
Australia said.

Hitachi, a large supplier to the government sector, including the 
federal Environment Department, said spreading data assets across 50 
environments would be inefficient.

"If the Government is able to consolidate the 50 down to three or four 
large data centres, there is cause for a lot of cost savings," Hitachi 
senior marketing manager Tim Smith said.

Hitachi made a submission to Sir Peter's review but Mr Smith would not 
comment on its contents. However, he said, more data centres would 
require more resources.

"It doesn't make economic sense to have 50 data centre managers when you 
can have a handful."

Citing Hitachi research figures, he said federal agencies and 
departments used about 25PB of storage and in 15 years the figure would 
be 250PB.

"This 10-fold growth in capacity isn't unrealistic," Mr Smith said. 
"We've found that most organisations only use about 40 per cent to 50 
per cent of their storage so there's a lot of wastage.

"We can't talk about what we submitted in the Gershon review yet, but we 
can say that in our dealings with government departments and agencies, 
we've advocated a consolidated approach to data centres."

Mr Smith said a whole-of-government data centre strategy was not just 
confined to the data centre space but included procurement equipment and 

The federal Government is currently considering all aspects of Sir 
Peter's report.


Bernard Robertson-Dunn
Canberra Australia
brd at iimetro.com.au

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