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GEIT Award

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GEIT Award
Dan Beard, Chief Administrative Officer of the House (second from right) and Jack Nichols, Director of the House Information Resources Enterprise Operations Department (third from right) accept Uptime Institute's Green Enterprise IT award.

Your computer has a bigger carbon footprint than you might think.

While computer technology and efficiency has grown exponentially, data centers – facilities used to house computer and telecommunications server systems – have remained tremendously inefficient by comparison.

Think about the number and size of data centers necessary for a large corporation or federal agency, let alone the entire Internet. Think about the power it takes to run those data centers – as much as four percent of all nationwide electricity consumption, according to some estimates. Now you understand the scope of the problem.

Green the Capitol is doing something about it.

The Uptime Institute, an information technology industry group, recently recognized an innovative Green the Capitol project to consolidate the U.S. House of Representatives data center, saving significant amounts of energy and money. It is the only such government effort ever to win a Green Enterprise IT award from Uptime.

Dan Beard, Chief Administrative Officer of the House, and Jack Nichols, Director of the House Information Resources Enterprise Operations department, recently accepted the award at a symposium in New York City. Nichols described the consolidation project as "transformational." Beard called the award "a validation," saying "We’ve really stepped out and done some innovative things, and we are now being rewarded for that."

For the past 16 years, Uptime has promoted and certified data center best practices in more than two dozen countries. Three years ago, the institute started recognizing the most efficient data centers with awards. A panel of industry experts judges the contestants in a blind selection process. Among the finalists this year were IT giants such as Microsoft, Yahoo!, eBay, Hewlett Packard and Verizon Wireless. "Some of the names that are associated with the awards really validate what we are doing at the House," Nichols said.

In lauding the House project at the awards ceremony, Uptime’s founder Ken Brill pointed out "They are saving the taxpayers $2,000 a day."

Beyond the recognition they provide in front of a symposium audience representing 33 countries and dozens of industry-leading corporations, the Uptime Institute awards "provide a framework to initiate projects" and a larger awareness within the industry, said Bruce Taylor, producer of Uptime’s symposium.

Most data centers are working at 5-10 percent efficiency, with the bulk of incoming energy going to cooling and other support functions rather than actual computing, according to Taylor. "It is a gross inefficiency," Taylor said. While data centers consumed about one percent of all energy produced in 2000, according to Brill, are forecast to account for 15-20 percent of total U.S. energy consumption by 2020. "This is a huge social issue," Brill said.

The issue’s urgency hit home for Nichols a few years ago when it became clear the House data center was approaching electrical load capacity. Because of the drain, House Information Resources was limited in its ability to provide new or enhanced IT services to Members. So, after reading up on available solutions, Nichols and his team set out to squeeze data from hundreds of servers into a few dozen super-efficient, high-capacity servers called blades.

Within two years, the effort had cut power usage and costs enough to replace dozens of individual servers in House offices with a few blades. Dozens of House offices have signed on, with more waiting in the wings.

Even with the added load, the data center’s energy use has dropped from about 1.25 million watts per hour to less than 475,000. If the data center took on server duties for all House offices, it could reduce the House’s computing energy bill by more than 80 percent and save millions of dollars.

The data center consolidation project’s success helps build momentum for more green innovation at the House, Beard said after the Uptime Institute award ceremony. "The changes we’ve made are just beginning."

Did You Know?

Capitol Lighting Policy

Night Lighting Policy

We implemented a House-wide policy to turn off unnecessary lights on nights and weekends. Potential savings amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

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