DTA looking to add prefab data centres to government shopping list

The DTA wants to expand data centre procurement to include prefab data centres.

The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) is seeking industry feedback about a new whole-of-government panel arrangement for acquiring IT products and services for data centres.

The DTA plans to replace the current data centres panel, which is set to expire in 2023, with a slightly expanded panel arrangement. Much like the current panel arrangement, the proposed panel will similarly consist of companies as sellers that the DTA believes will best represent value for money to the government.

Under the proposed arrangement, the DTA wants to expand data centre procurement to include whole-of-government hosting strategy and hosting certification frameworks, more supply and scope of data centre services for buyers, more innovation and sustainability, and enhanced security provisions.

In the DTA's discussion paper for the proposed panel arrangement, the agency said it wanted to specifically include a high-level requirement for prefabricated data centres when expanding the supply and scope of data services available to government. These prefabricated data centres would be a separate category of procurement to data centre facilities, according to tender documents.

As part of the DTA's request for industry feedback, it is seeking views on whether the proposed arrangement would be relevant for current and future trends in data centre systems and technologies, including solutions that would deliver modern facilities employing technologically advanced cooling, power, data centre infrastructure management, cabling and racking solutions.

It is also seeking feedback on whether it has provided sufficient information so potential applicants to the data centre panel can submit accurate pricing about IT products and services, as well as whether there are any additional pricing variables the government should consider in creating the new panel arrangement.

The government agency will be accepting submissions until 17 December 2021.

Late last year, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) published a report that revealed more than half of the data centre facilities contracts with Australian government agency contracts were with one data centre provider.

Due to the high concentration contracts sitting with one data centre provider, ASPI warned that government would have more data risks, reduced market flexibility, limited barriers to exit, and reduced innovation. While the ASPI report did not identify the dominant provider, the entity reports on procurement contracts for the 2019-20 financial year published on Austender suggests the dominant provider was Canberra Data Centres.

The report also highlighted that individual agencies have been driving many procurement decisions because a whole-of-government approach to data security has been lacking, thereby creating "unnecessary vulnerability for government data" and "fragmentation".

"Despite the intent of the DTA Data Centre Facilities Supplies Panel, current panel arrangements place a heavy onus on individual departments and agencies to identify and mitigate data centre risks in the absence of whole-of-government oversight," ASPI said at the time.

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