By: Pruitt Hall and Allan Evora
What We Can Learn From The Government’s Data Center (DCOI) Consolidation Initiative.
As of Aug. 1, 2016, the FDCCI was superseded by the Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI), an energy sustainability metric that all federal agencies must conform to by September 20, 2018. No dark projects, military, or space agency exceptions. DCOI is a big initiative, it’s got teeth, and it’s got those in federal sector scrambling.
According to Greenpeace’s Clicking Clean 2017 Report, projected data center electricity demand has reached 13% of global electricity consumption. The US Department of Energy estimates data centers will consume 4% of total U.S. energy consumption by 2020. It’s no wonder the federal government wants to cut data center spending by 25% by the end of 2018.
Data centers are clearly the low hanging fruit in the country’s energy crisis.
Luckily for IT integrators and facility control system integrators, the DCOI and its new requirements for data centers may present a new business opportunity.
But to understand that, you’ve got to understand the history and requirements of DCOI.
DCOI was signed into law August 1, 2016 but the mandate has a long history.
In 2010 the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI) was initiated after an internal audit revealed the government had more data centers than the commercial sector. The idea was to shut down inefficient data centers and get remaining data centers efficient. The problem was, FDCCI had no teeth.
In 2014, the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) capitalized on what FDCCI already started.
In 2015 came Executive Order 13693, which promoted energy conservation and efficiency by reducing agency building energy intensity. This wasn’t a data center specific order, but data centers played into half of the order’s wording. Why? Data centers consume a ridiculous amount of power, much more than their building envelopes would suggest.
Then, on August 1, 2016, the Office of Management and Budgets released the Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI) law memo to every federal CIO. No more talk and no more guessing. This one has teeth. If data centers don’t conform, they will not receive funds to expand.
How will the Trump Administration affect DCOI?
Even though DCOI was marketed as a “green” initiative, it’s my understanding the Trump administration will support DCOI, but for a different reason. The White House is extremely concerned with the security of our national electrical grid. It’s my prediction that DCOI will transition from being an IT-exclusive thing, to a subset of many national energy upgrades.
DCOI Requirements and How to Comply
The initiative is extremely unambiguous. It requires any data center (defined as any room that houses one or more servers) to achieve specific server energy efficiency metrics by September 30, 2018. If the data center is unable to, they can choose to outsource their data to a separate party who conforms to the initiative, apply metrics outlined in the initiative, or simply not expand, which carries the danger of being closed down.
According to DCOI, all data centers are to “develop and report on data center strategies to consolidate inefficient infrastructure, optimize existing facilities, improve security posture, achieve cost savings, and transition to more efficient infrastructure.
All existing and new data centers are required to have at least one certified Data Center Energy Practitioner (DCEP) on staff or contracted to oversee the program, data center performance, and where the data center stands on optimization and virtualization.
The plan for the future (outlined by the DCEP) will depend on data center size, efficiency, and record efficiency. The plan should outline the decision to outsource, virtualize, and/or optimize existing infrastructure.
To enforce compliance, agencies must conform to a few specific KPIs by September 30, 2018 (e.g., a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of less than 1.5).
Automated Monitoring Requirement Only Possible When IT and System Integrators Work Together
The most potentially misunderstood requirement is implementing automated monitoring. This website shows where each agency stands (so far) with DCOI. Take a look at the Server Utilization and Automated Monitoring Progress. Not looking too good. Although summed up in a few paragraphs in the DCOI memorandum, the automated monitoring requirement involves a pretty complex infrastructure.
To measure KPIs, automated monitoring tools that can record and transfer data are required to be installed by September 30, 2018. Federal IT managers want to know what they need to do to monitor their systems, and Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) plays heavily into the DCOI scheme.
DCIM is an all-encompassing software suite that controls bits and pieces of a data center. Because it’s essentially a controls package that specializes in the internal running of the data center, some agencies believe their DCIM software will be enough to get them a checkbox in automated monitoring, and an accurate PUE.
Unfortunately, DCIM by itself isn’t a total answer.
Most of the confusion stems from DCIM’s many definitions. Unlike many believe, DCIM is not the end-all be-all for data center monitoring. DCIM is a very ambitious, protocol agnostic monitoring software…but not every DCIM vendor takes into account the infrastructure and facilities sides (including energy metering…yet another KPI required by DCOI).
What should data centers be monitoring on the facilities side?
To measure PUE, you must measure the power used for the data center’s computer operations, which include lighting, HVAC, and any other computer-related building or process load. PUE also requires the measurement of power strictly used for IT purposes. The former can be measured near the utility meter and may require additional submeters if the data center needs to subtract out office or other tangential loads. The latter can be measured at the output of the UPS system or at the power distribution units.
So, to use DCIM to completely fulfill their DCOI automated monitoring requirements, data centers need to make sure DCIM also integrates the facilities side. This is important, not only for submetering purposes, but it’s also key if your PUE is above the target of 1.5. Facilities will play a significant role with respect to exploring optimization opportunities.
Data centers need a controls system integrator, like Affinity Energy, to integrate the facilities side into their DCIM environment.
There is no one stop shop to bring a DCIM solution into fruition. No. It will take an IT integrator AND a control systems integrator to fully implement DCIM for DCOI.
A lot of people wonder if the government will give data centers a mulligan and push the deadline back from September 30, 2018. At this point, it’s impossible to know, but it seems a few agencies are hedging their bets.
One of the largest reasons agencies aren’t complying is because DCOI has leapfrogged it’s funding. If the MOVE IT Act and IT Modernization Act floating around Congress are passed, they would create IT funds for each agency to support the adoption of new technologies.
Unfortunately, lack of funding does not exempt data centers from this law.
Data centers should rearrange preexisting funds within their federal budgets to comply. The US Army is a great proactive example of this.
Instead of waiting for funding, the US Army has closed 420 data centers since FDCCI was announced, and have a strategic DCOI plan to consolidate hundreds of major data centers to 10 by 2025. If they can do it without funding, other federal agencies can too.
DCOI Effect on Commercial Data Centers
Currently, the requirements only apply “to all Chief Financial Officers Act agencies [approximately 25], including the Department of Defense.”
Many government agencies that produce non-sensitive, non-classified data outsource their data center needs. This opens up a new can of worms for Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) certified data centers that house federal data. Technically, to house federal data, the agency must ensure that data center conforms to DCOI.
I don’t think DCOI will initiate a mass migration to commercial data centers. If they don’t want to house their own data, most government agencies will just ask another government agency to, largely making this an inter/intra-agency shuffle.
Unfortunately for those who outsource, it’s not as simple as handing data over. Most commercial data centers won’t virtualize and optimize on behalf of the federal agency. It’s got to be a combined effort.
I imagine we’ll see many commercial data centers start marketing DCOI certified areas within their data centers starting in 2018.
Each year, data centers will pull more and more energy from the national grid. Due to their potentially negative impact on the grid, it’s plausible that government might eventually choose to regulate all data centers.
It’s extremely likely DCOI will bleed into the private sector. Take a look at how many commercial entities are on the DCEP list. Why would Walmart, Dominos Pizza, and AT&T send people to an extremely difficult DCEP certification? It would never pay for itself. My guess is, many commercial data centers will implement a standard similar to DCOI in order to avoid being shamed into submission by environmental groups.
DCOI is a real mandate that will propel federal data centers past their commercial equivalent in sustainability. While there may be some eye rolling on how COIs will comply with DCOI, there is no eye rolling on the necessity of their compliance. Data center efficiency is an oxymoron. Power is a finite resource to the entire nation. Because data centers consume vast amounts of power and it’s time for them to become energy accountable.
Pruitt Hall is Director of Mission Critical Services at Kirkland Mission Critical. Classically trained and educated as a computer scientist/technologist, Pruitt has enjoyed an over three-decade long IT career. Over fifteen years ago, he began a full-time career adjunct as an IT Infrastructure Designer/Builder/Commissioning Consultant for data center clients. Pruitt joined Kirkland, Inc. in 2008.
Pruitt heads the Mission Critical division, which assists internal and external clients in all phases of technology implementation. This typically includes design assistance for any technology component, ranging from telephony, data, voice/data integration, low voltage internal & external cable plants, server room design, precision HVAC and electrical components as well as commissioning and post-commissioning studies.
Pruitt has his Computer Information Sciences Degree from Central Florida, is US Department of Energy DCEP Certified, and has his Tyco/AMP Level III Network Designer Certification.
Allan D. Evora is a leading expert in control systems integration and president of Affinity Energy with over 20 years of industry experience working in every capacity of the power automation project life cycle. With a background at Boeing Company and General Electric, Allan made the decision to establish Affinity Energy in 2002. Allan is an alumnus of Syracuse University with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, graduate of the NC State Energy Management program, and qualified as a Certified Measurement & Verification Professional (CMVP).
Throughout his career, Allan has demonstrated his passion for providing solutions. In 1990, he developed FIRST (Fast InfraRed Signature Technique), a preliminary design software tool used to rapidly assess rotary craft infrared signatures. In 2008, Allan was the driving force behind the development of Affinity Energy's Utilitrend; a commercially available, cloud-based utility resource trending, tracking, and reporting software.
Allan has been instrumental on large scale integration projects for utilities, universities, airports, financial institutions, medical campus utility plants, and manufacturing corporations, and has worked with SCADA systems since the early ‘90s. A passion for data acquisition, specialty networks, and custom software drives him to incorporate openness, simplicity, and integrity into every design in which he is involved.