Environment dept greens up IT and sets trend

Green IT will become as important in IT tenders as ITIL and risk management

The Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) last month appointed a new IT services provider in a bid to green up its IT. Although it is the first Australian Government IT services tender specifying a green focus, the appointment heralds a growing trend according to Datacom Director Mark McWilliams.

Claiming to be the first department in the Australian Government to specify a green focus as part of its information technology services contract, DEWHA last month selected Datacom as its new IT provider.

Datacom now owns and manages DEWHA's entire IT infrastructure, in a deal which commenced on June 26 and is worth $72 million over the next five years.

A spokesperson for DEWHA said that the department was looking not just for sustainability in the IT services provided by a contractor, but also the company’s own internal environmental corporate credentials.

“The successful tenderer, Datacom Systems, has an excellent track record in providing IT managed services in Australia and overseas and its proposed products for us meet at least the Silver requirements of the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) standard - in many cases the Gold standard,” she said.

The spokesperson also said Datacom has a strong green IT focus overall, with innovative corporate environmental practices and a credible thin client solution.

Apparently Datacom has implemented a return to desktop virtualisation and the use of thin clients to save power.

“With the signing of this contract, DEWHA expects to lead the way on green business practices and IT sustainability in government,” the spokesperson said.

Two of the green initiatives that attracted DEWHA’s attention were the company’s new green ORBIT datacenter located in Auckland and the green methodologies it has applied to its Sydney-based data centre.

Although it has connotations of space travel, that New Zealand-based data center was named purely after its physical location on Orbit Drive.

“We are spending $40 million on the center, but it will be the greenest datacenter pretty much anywhere. It officially opened in May this year, but the new facility has been developed totally with green in mind,” McWilliams said.

“The center has free outside air economisers so we can use cooling from outside. The building has lots of recycled materials in it. The PUE [power utilisation efficiency] will be better than world-class.”

Where there is usually about 600 millimetres between the concrete base and the floor in a datacenter, the Orbit datacenter has 1.8 meters of space in which to store all the cold air being blown in from outside.

The company has applied similar concepts to its Sydney datacenter.

“We are driving precision cooling in our racks, where we just cool inside the racks rather than cool the whole room. We also have an outside air conditioning system here too so we can suck cool air from outside in to the datacenter, when the temperature is right,” said McWilliams.

“When that system is turned on here in Sydney, we save the equivalent amount of energy that it would take to light 140 homes.”

McWilliams said the deal was very significant, and he expects an ever-increasing amount of tenders specifying Green IT as the priority.

“We are definitely seeing that green IT is an increasing priority for clients and potential clients. Just this morning we were discussing a potential new client opportunity and this client was saying that they have a dedicated staff member that works purely on green initiatives,” he said.

“Just as five years ago it was essential that you met standards around things like ITIL and risk management, now we are starting to be asked where our methodology and standards are in terms of green IT.”

In announcing the tender last month the Minister for Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett mentioned Datacom’s plans to heat a near-by public pool from its Sydney Datacenter.

“We have since had engineering diagrams drawn up on that and it is totally feasible. The engineers have estimated that it would save the pool something in the order of $60,000 a year in gas to get it to the temperature that we can get it to [using heat transfer from the datacenter] and we would save about 30 million litres of evaporated water that we use in our cooling process,” said McWilliams.

The project is all set to go ahead, but the company is trying to obtain some State and Federal funding before moving ahead with it.

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