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How the California OCIO is not meeting governor's executive order

In February, Governor Schwarzenegger signed an executive order that sets efficiency goals for California's data centers. But where are the progress reports asks Sentilla's Joe Polastre.
Written by Joe Polastre, Sentilla, Contributor
Commentary - To find one answer to the question about what governments are doing to make their data centers more efficient, let's now focus on the state of California. In February of this year, Governor Schwarzenegger signed Executive Order S-03-10 which dictates efficiency goals for the state's data centers. Similar to EO 13514, the goal is to bring the state's data centers in line with commercial best practices thereby reducing cost to the state and providing environmental/GHG benefits.

Due to the fact that the state spends more than $3 billion annually on IT and 40 percent of office energy costs spent on IT, an energy efficiency and consolidation plan was put into place. First, the Office of the CIO (OCIO) was created to centralize IT management. The OCIO gets the ultimate word on all IT policy, with each department contributing through newly appointed CIOs (called Agency CIOs).

The aggressive part of this executive order is the set of energy reduction goals, which follow on from previous Executive Order S-20-04 that established the Green Building Initiative for California. The goals are as follows:

* Reduce the total amount of energy used by IT and telecom equipment by 10 percent by July 1, 2010.
* Reduce the total amount of energy used by IT and telecom equipment by 20 percent by July 1, 2011.
* Reduce the total amount of energy used by IT and telecom equipment by 30 percent by July 1, 2012.
* Reduce the total data center square footage used by state agencies by 25 percent by July 2010.
* Reduce the total data center square footage used by state agencies by 50 percent by July 2011.
* Consolidate mission-critical and public-facing applications to a Tier-III data center designated by the OCIO.
* Begin moving applications to the Tier-III data center no later than September 2010.
* Begin migrating all network services to the California Government Network (CGN) by July 2010.
* Consolidate state email applications to a single shared instance.
* Publicly report the progress of the energy and space reduction effort on the OCIO website on a quarterly basis beginning April 2010.
* The OCIO to report to the Cabinet Secretary starting in April 2010, detailing (a) progress by agencies towards consolidation, (b) results of the consolidation in terms of fiscal and environmental benefit, and (c) the status and quality of consolidated/shared services.

There are two immediate dates that have the first impact: April 2010 and July 2010. In April, quarterly reports on progress should first be available. In July, 25 percent of square footage should be eliminated and 10 percent of energy cut.

It is now October, and if you peruse the OCIO website, there are no quarterly progress reports or reports to the Cabinet Secretary that can be found. Furthermore, the only initiative where substantive, quantifiable progress has been made is in email consolidation.

Part of this problem may be the appointment of the OCIO in February, who later left to run CIO.gov's consolidation strategy, leaving the OCIO position open. The other part of the problem is that no cohesive plans that have a shot at hitting these reduction targets have ever been published.

The phenomenon is not unique to government. I'm sure you know of an organization or two with a corporate initiative to cut costs or energy by a specified amount, say 15 percent. This initiative comes from an executive, such as the newly appointed Chief Sustainability Officer or the CFO. But once issued, everyone has to scramble to find out if this reduction goal is even possible. In itself, this is not a bad thing -- competition and aggressive/stretch goals have been used for all time to motivate people to reach more than they think is possible.

Then where to start? This is where a comprehensive energy management plan is needed. Start with establishing a baseline and inventory -- which applications are running on what equipment and contributing to how much energy use. Then rank your energy consumers, identify unused or idle equipment, and process how virtualization or consolidation might work (email is a good example in the case of the state of California). Remember that consolidation doesn't always solve the problem: those fancy new blade servers you're buying that are going to be equally unused can consume much more than your existing 3-year old equipment.

California has always been a leader in energy efficiency programs. From vehicle emissions now to data centers, California has the opportunity to be the state that not only created the IT revolution but also the state who led policy to curb its negative environmental impacts. I anxiously await the publication of the OCIO's reports...

Dr. Joe Polastre is co-founder and chief technology officer at Sentilla.

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