Federal Government launches new data centre strategy

The Australian Federal Government has announced a whole-of-government data centre strategy which will govern procurement and consolidation of existing and new data centres for all Federal Government departments over the next 15 years.

The announcement, made by the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner MP, comes more than a year and a half after Sir Peter Gershon recommended a reform of government ICT to meet future requirements and avoid unnecessary spending.

The Australian Government Data Centre strategy centralise the regulation of data centre policy for government departments in three stages over a 15 year period. Initially, the government expects to aggregate demand for data centre space from government departments and define the standards to be used in procuring equipment and floorspace. During the second phase, government departments will share solutions and technology and, in the final phase, departments will be encouraged to adopt new opportunities in technology, processes or policy.

The strategy will govern the future use of data centres by governments departments, but individual agencies will be able to choose when they upgrade or replace existing data centres.

Tanner said the Government is expected to make first approaches to market in the third quarter of 2010. This includes the formation of a new panel of data centre providers, and the beginning of a tender process for data centres.

Tendered data centres must offer a minimum of 500 square metres of floorspace and a lease of 10 years, with opportunities to extend the lease for another five years. Data centres can be located inside or outside the Australian Capital Territory and all tenders will be received via the AusTender website.

The Department of Finance and Deregulation would not reveal how many suppliers will be chosen for the panel, but a spokesperson said they would be chosen based on a value for money proposition.

"The primary aim of this strategy is to deliver better services to Australians, at lower costs to the taxpayer," Tanner said in a statement. "But we also want to encourage innovation and competition within the data centre industry."

See a slideshow of the event.
The Gershon Report, initially put forward in August 2008, found that Australia lacked an overarching whole-of-government policy on ICT, which lead to unnecessary duplication of data centre facilities, staff and processes, wasting in the order of $1 billion over 15 years.

The review recommended that the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) develop of an overarching data centre strategy with external specialist expertise, to determine the replacement and upgrades of government data centres over the next 10 to 15 years. The new strategy was due in September last year.

The full whole-of-government strategy was not completed in the recommended timeframe, but Tanner instituted an interim panel of data centre providers in September last year, made up of Polaris Data Centres, Canberra Data Centres, Fujitsu, Global Switch Property and Harbour MSP. According to the strategy released today, the interim panel will stop accepting new approaches this month, and is expected to cease by late 2010. The transition between interim and final data centre panels is intended to be a "seamless changeover”, according to Tanner.

The minister has previously stated that the government plans to fully adhere to the review's recommendations, but ruled out the use of a single data centre supplier.

The Federal Government currently spends an average of $850 million a year on data centre needs and occupies 30,000 square metres of data centre floorspace. Government demand for data centre floorspace is "expected to double if we continue to manage them according to existing arrangements”, Tanner said. The strategy will attempt to consolidate sites in order to reduce data centre footprint, but also intends to use cheaper cooling methods such as ambient air temperature in order to reduce costs and environmental footprint.

"As the cost and environmental footprint of running data centres has started to become an issue, it's an issue that the Federal Government of course cannot ignore. And it's very important to our wider efforts to improve our sustainability that we can improve what we do in the data centre area," Tanner said.

The Australian Government Data Centre Strategy is available publicly on the Department of Finance and Deregulation website.


Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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