White House challenges data centers to improve energy efficiency

Unfortunately, almost no one cared.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality, in a blog post on the White House site this week, announced that they were asking data center operators to join the Better Buildings Challenge and improve energy efficiency by 20 percent, a goal the post claims could save more than 20 billion kWh by 2020. In response, the White House announced that they had 19 new data center partners in the challenge.

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Yes, you read that correctly: nineteen partners, of whom only seven are not Federal government entities. Now while these 19 operators represent far more than 19 data centers (Digital Realty, for example, has just over 100 locations), even the total number of data centers represented is a drop in the bucket compared to the 2,292 data centers in the US (according to datacentermapping.com).

Also, it should be noted that the remaining 12 government data center operators don’t even represent a 100 percent commitment from the Federal government to this program, which — given the ongoing consolidation efforts that were passed down from the administration — should have been a major priority, as consolidation provides a simple path to reduced and more efficient energy utilization.

For example, the Defense Information Systems Agency, which aims to become the sole data center provider for the DoD, has since 2008 shut down eight of 18 data centers, with three closures in the last 18 months, consolidating their efforts in the remaining facilities. They are one of the government partners in the challenge, which fits well with their overall strategy. But the DISA doesn’t handle the data center operations for the military services, who have been quiet on the subject of the Better Building Challenge.

The new partners announced in the challenge are:

  • Argonne National Laboratory
  • CoreSite Colocation Realty Corporation
  • U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Information Systems Agency
  • Digital Realty
  • U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration
  • eBay, inc.
  • Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • The Home Depot
  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory
  • Michigan State University
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center
  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory
  • Schneider Electric
  • Social Security Administration
  • Staples
  • U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs

Many are also participants in the Energy Star program for data centers, and as part of their participation they will get the assistance of the US Department of Energy to improve their efficiency. Results of the program will be publicly announced on the Better Building Challenge website. But to reach the energy savings that the White House has been promoting, the Challenge will require much more significant buy-in from the data center community at large.

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