Government data centres are set for massive shake-up

By Merri Mack
Tuesday, 08 June, 2010
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A metamorphosis underway with government data centres is set to accelerate later this year especially in the federal government sphere. This has been set in train by the Gershon review, an independent review of the Australian government’s use and management of information and communication technology. Merri Mack reports on the evolution of government data centres.

The state governments have also telegraphed the need to rationalise data centres with NSW expected to consolidate its 130 data centres into two centres, with health and education being the mainstay agencies in each. In NSW, data centre consolidation offers the opportunity to rationalise more than 13,000 m2 of data centre space, securing essential future capacity.

Of course it’s not just government of all levels needing more efficient data centres because they are running out of space but the whole game has changed with cloud computing and virtualisation becoming de rigueur.

Gordon Makryllos, Vice President, APC by Schneider Electric, said, “In Canberra, as in many locations across Australia, there is a shortage of secure, available data centre space. Many data centre facilities are at end of life and cannot accommodate future demand.

“There has been a massive explosion in ICT computing requirements in the last five years. Organisations are deploying blade servers and high-density equipment in their data centres which have much high power and cooling requirements.”

The Gershon review has also recommend that large departments (with ICT spends in excess of $20 million) develop an ICT energy-efficiency plan that spans across the department or is freestanding, but with an energy usage target. Gershon believes it should be the priority of departments to measure their data centre energy efficiency.

Anthony Wong, Australian Computer Society (ACS) President, said, “Topics such as data centres and sustainability were also spotlighted by the keynote speakers at a recent ACS conference in Canberra. The digital data explosion is one of the most significant trends affecting the ICT sector and the broader business community - with implications on privacy, power efficiency and workplace flexibility. As technologists, we urgently need to address the very real sustainability issues on the business and community agenda,” said Wong.

A number of vendors that include Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), Hewlett-Packard, CSC, IBM, Fujitsu, Cisco, CA Technologies have come up with infrastructure platforms that are basically virtualised data centres.

HDS challenges us to imagine that in order for an organisation to manage its applications it doesn’t need a data centre. You wouldn’t have to purchase disks, servers and (virtualisation) software as the business grows; hire enough staff to deploy, configure and manage the data centre; find enough floor space to house the IT infrastructure; and pay for infrastructure you only partially use when you don’t need it.

The HDS non-proprietary platform fuses an organisation’s server, storage and networking requirements and eradicates the above challenges.

On a different tack, CA Technologies’ ecoSoftware allows companies to actually measure and act on their sustainability goals rather than just talk about it. CA ecoSoftware can help businesses demonstrate that they are making a difference in their organisations - by providing visibility into their energy data, giving them detailed charts and graphs to show progress against baselines or business objectives. This highlights where and how they’ve been able to reduce consumption and cut energy costs, or to spotlight areas of waste that have been remediated.

“Sustainability has been on the business agenda for what seems like ages and energy efficiency has changed from a minor concern to a corporate imperative. By being able to monitor these processes and demonstrate that they’re making a difference, companies can make some real inroads into improving their environmental footprint, rather than just talking about it,” said Brenton Smith, VP and Area Manager, ANZ, CA Technologies.

Deakin University is upholding its reputation for the early adoption of innovative technology by transitioning to the Cisco Unified Computing System platform for its next-generation data centre. The Cisco system will enable Deakin University to streamline its data centre resources, reduce infrastructure costs and improve business agility. With a single point of management for server, network and storage access and by radically reducing the number of devices requiring set-up, management, power/cooling and cabling, the Cisco system will lower the university’s IT infrastructure, deployment and ongoing management costs. It will also free up IT department resources, allowing managers to be more strategic and to focus on their business-critical issues.

David Hanrahan, General Manager for Virtual Data Centre Initiatives, Dimension Data, said: “Virtualisation is now the core building block of modern data centre architecture, creating both challenges and opportunities with the potential to transform the computing environment and deliver significant benefits.” Dimension Data designed and deployed the system at Deakin University.

Currently, unlike the more efficient data centre consumers, the government’s data centre equipment is not centralised. It is spread across Australia; located in not just large enterprise data centres but also cupboards, converted offices, computer and server rooms, and in commercial and insourced data centres.

A strategy guiding the Australian government’s procurement and management of data centre services for the next 15 years was released in March this year.

Lindsay Tanner, Minister for Finance and Deregulation, said the government had endorsed the strategy as the whole-of-government approach to managing the Australian government’s data centre requirements.

“The Australian government’s current data centre footprint is close to 30,000 square metres,” Tanner said.

“With demand for data centre services increasing every year, it was anticipated that footprint would double in coming years.

“The strategy sets out a plan for consolidating sites and increasing the utilisation of servers and storage. This will significantly reduce the costs and importantly, the environmental impacts, associated with operating data centres.

“The government’s data centres generate an estimated 300,000 tonnes of carbon each year. Our goal is to reduce this by at least 40,000 tonnes per year over the next five years,” said Tanner.

CDC hosts government clients

Canberra Data Centres (CDC) is a wholly Australian owned, hosted data centre company that was established in 2007 to meet the national capital’s current and future data hosting needs.

CDC is recognised as world-class ‘green’ data centre facilities that use up to 65% less power than other data centre models, which means massive savings and a greatly reduced carbon footprint for its customers.

The secure, state-of-the-art centre hosts data for government and corporate clients, including the Australian intelligence community. It is an example of government and industry working in partnership for superior outcomes and substantial cost savings. CDC has one of Australia’s most cost-effective, advanced, clean and green data hosting space. Underpinning CDC’s hosting and services business is industry-leading data centre infrastructure technology from APC and electrical equipment from Schneider Electric.


Stage 1 (approx 700 m2) has 9 APC pods, servicing 10 government agencies.

The APC pod designs are based around standardised densities, colour coded for simplicity, ie:

Yellow APC Pod - 7.5 kW per rack

Orange APC Pod - 15 kW per rack

Red APC Pod - 30 kW per rack

Typically, APC pods contain 20 racks and offer dual-redundant modular UPSs, as well as redundant Inrow cooling units. The in-built redundancy featured in all pods and the supporting infrastructure such as chillers and generators provides concurrent maintainability of the systems, meaning all individual components can be taken offline without impacting on the uptime of the IT load housed in each pod. All pods use APC’s hot-aisle-containment-system to enhance efficiency, contributing greatly to the overall PUE of the data centre of 1.3. Some customers have chosen to vary, or modify their pod design, including one such customer who has installed Tier 1 (Hitachi USP-V) storage and Sun M9000-64 Enterprise Servers into its pod. APC provided the design engineering and conducted extensive computational fluid dynamic modelling to prove the concept/theory before proceeding. The data centre is constructed without any raised floor, using APC’s Inrow cooling system that captures the waste IT heat, rather than randomly chilling the air pumped into a sub-floor. This design decision alone is responsible for much of the efficiency of the data centre.

Stage 2 provides further data centre capacity for 13 more APC pods of varying densities, and some customers have already booked space. Stage 2 is expected to fill up during 2010, requiring the third stage to be brought online for early 2011. Stage 2 offers a further 1100 m2 of data centre space, and Stage 3 a further 1300 m2.

Currently, 12 MW of power is available to the site, fed via diverse pathways to further enhance the resilience of the data centre. Additional power can be brought online if required in the future.

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