Consultation Draft RFT: Data Centre Facilities

Author: 
Kayelle Wiltshire - AGIMO
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I’m Kayelle Wiltshire, Assistant Secretary of the Central Facilities Branch in AGIMO.  I will be implementing the Australian Government Data Centre Strategy announced by Minister Tanner on 22 March 2010.

To implement the Strategy I have started a program of activities.  A key activity will be to establish a panel of suppliers capable of providing data centre facilities to the Australian Government.  The panel of suppliers will be selected based on their responses to a future Request for Tender (RFT) to join a Panel for the Provision of Data Centre Facilities.

The RFT will identify Tenderers that are, or will be, able to provide Data Centre Facilities according to the requirements set out in a Statement of Requirements.  In order to develop a realistic and achievable Statement of Requirements (SoR) for the RFT, I want to engage with Industry and other interested parties to help us develop the best SoR possible.

It is important to point out that the SoR is only one component of the RFT.  Other elements such as conditions of participation, draft contract and compliance information are not included in the SoR, but may be referenced in this conversation.

The SoR draws on experience gained from our earlier Expression of Interest (EOI) seeking members of an interim data centre panel and input from the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) by reference to their recent document:  Whole-of-Government Data Centre Strategy.  Industry Best Practice Principles.  I have also posted a copy of these principles on our blog and I would welcome your comment on them.

Over the next three weeks, using this blog, you can offer your opinions and thoughts, either generally or specifically.  Working co-operatively, I hope that we can polish the statement of requirements so that it reflects that which industry can provide.

You may also be interested to know that a separate RFT for the provision of Data Centre Migration Services is currently being prepared and more information will be made available at a later date.

I look forward to reading your comments, suggestions, etc posted on this blog.  But to avoid misunderstanding, please note that I will follow the housekeeping rules below for our conversation on this blog. If you wish to share commercially sensitive information in confidence, you can email me at DataCentres@finance.gov.au.  However, if you do email me, please note that because of probity considerations I cannot respond to individual emails.  If a response is required, and if you agree, I can de-identify your email, remove information of a sensitive nature and post a response to your query via the blog.  I strongly urge you to use email only for sensitive comments, my strong preference is for you to post your comments directly to the blog.

We appreciate the time and effort you spend reading and commenting on the blog, and we are interested in your feedback.  We will attempt to answer all your comments, but we cannot promise to answer or use any or all of the comments we receive. Neither can I promise to act on the comments you provide.

When commenting, please remember that as a government agency we may have to disclose the comments we receive to meet government accountability or reporting requirements.  We may also use your comments including to further the discussion in other forums or media.

Finance will not take into account anything posted or mailed in response to our blog posts when evaluating tenders – our intention is only to use them to improve the draft RFT.  The blog will be open for comments for three weeks. We will consolidate the responses and issue the final version of the RFT via AusTender.

While we intend to release an RFT following this consultation, please be aware that any number of happenings may prevent us from doing so, and if we do release an RFT, the final SoR may look very different to the current draft.

Well, that’s all from me, I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Comments (18)

Congratulations for making the draft Data Centre Facilities Statement of Requirements available in an easy to read (and comment on) format. A manor lack in the document is requirement for mandatory standards and reporting for Sustainable (Green) IT.

While the draft includes a section on Green IT, the only firm requirement is certification to the Environmental Management Systems (EMS) ISO14001 standard, or equivalent. There are no mandatory requirements for energy saving, materials recycling or reporting in the draft. This is despite requirements placed on government agencies to do so. As an example, modern data centres report the energy used by client equipment, so this can be included in mandatory government energy and greenhouse gas reporting. The draft document includes no requirement for such reporting, so that Government CIOs would be unable to comply with reporting requirements.

A "Whole-of-Government ICT Sustainability Plan" was to be developed by the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) in conjunction with the Department of Finance and Deregulation (Finance) by December 2009. However, the plan has not yet been released.

In the absence of published government requirements, standards and applicable laws are detailed in my book "Green Technology Strategies: Using computers and telecommunications to reduce carbon emissions".

Several students undertaking my courses in Green IT have written green ICT reports for their agencies as course assignments. The courses are available through the Australian Computer Society, the Australian national University and Open Universities Australia.

Currently I have students studying Green ICT, including several preparing reports for major government agencies. The next course starts at ANU in a few weeks time and enrolments are now open.

The course will be updated when the "Whole-of-Government ICT Sustainability Plan" from Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) and Department of Finance and Deregulation (Finance) is available (the report was due in December 2009).

Sustainable IT is one of the topics for the World Computer Congress 2010, to be held in Brisbane in September. Several of the architects of Australian green IT plans and training will be speaking there. I will be talking about green IT training for professionals.

ps: For more on this, see the linked blog posting.

Mark wrote June 30, 2010 at 11:34 am:

>Hi Tom ...I can’t see the linked blog address you refer to. Can you repost the address?

Sorry, yes. Here is the link: Green IT Requirements for Australian Government Data Centre Facilities, June 29, 2010.

In that there are links to Green IT courses, a book and conferences.

We have received a emailed comment which may be of general interest and so here is an anonymous version:

In the section on Telecommunications, clauses 6.9 – 6.15, it would be useful to specifically request that Tenderers be able to provide connection to ICON.

Thanks for your comment on the use of the Intra-Government Communications Network (ICON), which I think will interest everyone.

The Draft RFT is interested in sites across Australia. ICON is only available in the ACT and is not a commercial carrier.

Cheers Kayelle

Kayelle Wiltshire wrote:
June 29, 2010 at 6:35 pm

>Hi Tom ... NABERS working group for data centres ...

Yes, I just had lunch with Graeme Philipson, who presented on Metrics for Australian Data Centres at Data Centre GreenTech Melbourne 2010.

As I understand it, now that the USA, Europe and Japan have agreed to work on a world standard, Australia will likely follow that, rather than develop a separate standard.

Paragraph 7.19 of the Statement of Requirements contains a reference to the PSM. This should now read the Protective Security Policy Framework (PSPF).

Hi Kayelle,

I've not found any timeframe to which the panel will apply (perhaps I've just missed it), but I assume it would be active for a number of years. On that assumption, I'm not sure how entirely viable it is to have a register of available (or projected available), at a fixed point in time (ie at the close of the RFT) facilites, which may not actually be required or called upon for some time - I would think that by the time a particular agency requires a facility the panel registry would be quite out-of-date, given the pace at which commercial real estate moves - a facility available now, for example, would not likely still be available in a year's time.

Conversely, by setting up your framework like this you're also only capturing what's available or likely to be available in the market on that closing date, with no provision for identifying (potentially more suitable) facilities that may become available during the duration of the panel agreement. In that respect I believe the suggested approach to identifying suitable data centre facilities might be flawed.

Another shortfall of your methodology appears to be that you are asking tenderers to identify suitable space, rather than identifying the need first and then finding the right space to suit it - it seems rather topsy-turvy - what is the intended approach if an agency doesn't find on the register a site that meets their requirement? Do they have to use the panel, and as such attempt to fit into a less-than-suitable space, or do they then have the option of exploring the marketplace beyond the confines of the panel (which will then largely make the panel redundant)?

While I appreciate the intention behind consolidation of information and a central source of data, I'm not sure that this approach will suit its intended purpose and meet the identified aims of the strategy. Perhaps you might be better off compiling a panel of commercial real estate agents or similar who will be able to source suitable premises as and when they become required, rather than seeking to capture potential facilities now. If you proceed as intended what I see you ending up with will be a static list of a very fluid subject matter, which I can't see being especially useful any more than a few months (at most) after the close of the RFT.

You're also asking for very detailed information which the holders of suitable properties may not have the time/inclination to provide right now in the required tender format, given that it's on the proviso that there may/may not be any future interest in their property. They will know that if anyone is truly interested in their facility then that interested party will approach them at the time when the requirements are known and a preliminary assessment of suitability will have already been carried out, which for the facility owner/manager will promise a much better chance of successfully letting/selling the space with much less effort required.

Apologies if I've misunderstood any part of your proposed methodology or intended outcomes, but these are my initial thoughts on reading your blog introduction and RFI.

Hi Kayelle,

Over time there have been discussions about Data Centre as a Service - and currently several suppliers are providing such services to enterprise customers in what is a growing industry trend.

Can you please clarify if the relationship (if any) between the Data Centre Facility Panel and any other (potential) subsequent panels for provision of Data Centre as a Service?

In particular, would suppliers be able to provide Data Centre as a Service offerings using their own facilities? In addition, would they need to be on the Data Centre Facilities Panel in order to provide Data Centre as a Service offerings using their own facilities?

Thank you.

Thanks Kayelle,

I appreciate your clarification that a supplier would not have to be on the Data Centre Facilities Panel to offer Data Centre as a Service.

I'd like to seek a further point of clarification from your response.

You indicate your expectation that DCaaS would essentially be a fully managed service. As I mentioned in my original post, the government can take advantage of the offering of a mature industry that is able to deliver such managed services in an effective and efficient manner. Such fully managed services are usually being delivered from the providers’ own data centres, a model which allows them to control the variables and extract efficiencies of hardware, power, cooling, management systems, business continuity planning, etc. In addition, such an environment allows the standardisation of costs, which gives providers the ability to offer “on-demand” and “utility computing” services models.

My observation is that such models – and the benefits they provide - would be difficult to realize if the service providers are stopped from using their own data centre facilities, and required to deliver the managed services from other providers’ facilities chosen by the customer.

Could I suggest that AGIMO considers allowing DCaaS providers the ability to provide a fully managed service using their own facilities, rather than mandating that the facilities are sourced from the Data Centre Facilities Panel?

Thank you.

P.S. I had another look at the Australian Government Data Centre Strategy 2010-2025 available here: http://www.finance.gov.au/e-government/infrastructure/docs/AGDC_Strategy... and I failed to spot the mention of DCaaS. It would be useful to understand the scope of services and any approach for their delivery that has been captured in your use of the term “DCaaS”

Hi Kayelle,

I find it very encouraging that the Australian Government has come out in support of the building of sustainable data centres. The question is whether or not the market is going to offer the best available designs that will significantly reduce the amount of electricity consumed or continue to offer more of the same. The collocation market around the world is caught up in a very interesting dilemma right now. If they were to build very sustainable and resilient data centres then the beneficiary of that would be the customer with lower operating cost (due to reduced electricity consumption) but the current lease models do not allow the colo provider to benefit from that lower operating cost and hence is unable to spend the extra capex required to build these truly sustainable designs in the first place. It is unfortunate, but it is my belief that in the general market right now it is actually in the colo providers interest to NOT OFFER the most sustainable data centres as they make less money doing so.

Going by the information available on this web site it seems that the Government estimates the current average PUE for all Federal Government data centres to be in the order of 2.4. If we take the currently estimated electricity cost of $170 million per year for all Federal Government data centres and we use an average cost of $0.10 per KW Hr then we can calculate that there is a total ICT load that currently consumes in the order of 80MW’s of power. At a predicted future PUE of 1.9 (calculated from the information in this web site) the requirement would be for a total of 150MW’s of power (down from the current 190MW’s) after this consolidation process takes place. It is hard to understand why the Government has not aimed at a much larger reduction in electricity consumption given the various technologies currently available. Aiming for a PUE of 1.9 would be a very average outcome in today’s market, especially for new builds.

We are starting to see large customers in other parts of the world weight actual running costs (can be defined by the PUE) in tender evaluations in such a way as to use the potential savings for sustainable designs in an ROI model to help justify the upfront costs of building sustainable designs, that, in the long term, save a lot of money and are kinder to our environment. The Government will hopefully aim to accurately assess the upfront $ value of a reduction/increase in PUE, which can then be used in assessing the relative benefits of any data centre design and build. This would promote a philosophy of best ROI, rather than the cheapest cost to build and those companies offering the best efficiencies should come out on top in terms of chosen facilities that win the business.

Through the implementation of virtualisation and moving to new server technology etc, we could guess that the ICT load could be reduced from 80MW to something in the order of 50MW’s nationally (probably even less). If we assume that the cost of electricity over the next 10 years will average $0.15 per KW Hr then every 0.01 shift in PUE performance (over a whole year and given a known IT load of course) would save the Government in the order of $660,000 per year in electricity costs, most of which would come from a more efficient cooling system installed within new data centres.

This is not loose change but the important thing is to get the right advice from the market and I am not sure how the Government plans on doing that when in fact the largest product suppliers in the industry today support solutions which are NOWHERE NEAR the most efficient and flexible systems to install. The comments about exploiting the free cooling available when the outside air is below 16C is, unfortunately as a result of technology that is a product specific approach to the problem. The comments regarding the need for low and high density zones are also specific to a particular approach to cooling and are definitely not required in new builds when the right designs are implemented. I will probably add another comment within this blog with further details regarding these points and other technical issues which should be considered seriously. It is suffice to say that we should be aiming for PUE’s in the order of 1.4 or less in almost all of Australia and this can be easily achieved without letting the outside air into the data centre.

Moving the PUE target of 1.9 down to 1.4 would save in the order of $33 million per year in running costs for the total data centre footprint and over the 15 year life cycle this would end up being somewhere in the order of $500 million. It would be fair to estimate that the current colo market data centre space would be running at PUE’s of between 1.6 and 2.2 with only 1 that I am aware of at the 1.6 level. Even moving from a PUE of 1.6 to 1.4 will bring significant savings in the order of $13.2 million per year and over the 15 year life cycle this would turn into savings in the order of $200 million.

A simple formula, based on the information above, is that lower PUE’s could be weighted at $200,000 for every 0.01 shift per MW of IT load. This would make the weighting for a PUE shift of 0.2 in the vicinity of $4 million and would easily justify the need to build the higher efficient data centres in the first place. I would also strongly suggest heavy penalties in the form of lower payments if the PUE target was not reached. The Government would also need to employ some very informed people to do the PUE analysis at the time the tenders are received.

This is an enormous opportunity for the Government to lead in this area. It could secure the right advice as to the available technology and then incentivise the market to build the designs that will allow us to take a world leading position on this. The mathematics of the ROI are very easy, it is the right direction being set by the Government that really matters here. The colo market has to believe that the Government is serious about making the change to only using HIGHLY EFFICIENT data centre space. By doing so, not only will the Government save a lot of money, it will be taking a leading position on sustainability and also allow the colo market to build highly efficient data centres that will then flow through to benefits for the rest of the country’s businesses.

We have received an off-blog query asking whether the RFT will require compliance with The National Code of Practice for the Construction Industry?

The answer to this is yes. The Code and Guidelines will be referred to in their own section of the RFT. The RFT will contain an undertaking of compliance with the Code which the Tenderers will have to sign.

Hi, I have recently been asked whether there is a chance for Industry presentations?

Unfortunately, no. We asked for presentations by Industry last year as part of our Strategy development and we cannot fit any further presentations into our tight timeframe.

However, if you feel you do have information in a presentation format that I should be made aware of, I am happy if you either post this as a comment to this blog or email me at DataCentres@finance.gov.au.

Thanks again for all your comments. I’ve just published a new post which contains our draft pricing model:

http://agimo.govspace.gov.au/2010/07/09/consultation-draft-rft-data-cent...

Hi,

I have received a suggestion that the RFT will exclude some more modern high-power density data facilities by setting the minimum data centre space requirements at a too high level.

Our intention by setting the minimum space and power requirements is to signal that our Whole-of-Government approach will seek large aggregations of data centre space in preference to the existing smaller fragmented approach that now exists.

We settled on the 500 square metre limit following a previous round of industry consultation. However, following this consultation we also recognised that framing our need for data centre facilities solely on the basis of space ignored the increasing contribution provided by modern high-power density data centre facilities. To address market segment, we have also expressed our need as an equivalent total power requirement. Therefore, for example, a data centre that provided a total of 1MW for use by the IT equipment, but provided this total using only 400 square metres of total space, would be compliant with the RFT since it exceeds our benchmark for total power by using an increased power density per square metre.

We are not thinking of anything smaller than 400 square metres or 2MW of power. One of the other elements that is important to us is the concept of a government suite. This is where the government shares a data centre facility with other organisations and the government is assigned a contiguous area within the facility rather than having the equipment fragmented across the available floor space.

We do not expect all agencies will be able to take advantage of the higher density offerings at some data facilities, and would therefore still expect some offerings to be based on space available rather than total power capacity.

Kayelle

Hi Kayelle,

The lowest cost compliant outcome for government is as follows:
1. Define your requirements clearly do not ask industry - we just came back from a global study tour and the reality is there are only a few ways to build cost effective, scalable and flexible infrastructure.
2. Establish true IT Infra capacity forecasts.
3. Limit design flexibility as it comes at a high cost.
4. Control the construction cost so you are not paying for development profit and / long term profits.
5. Ensure any pricing model seperates data centre technical space pricing from the IT managed services.
6. Consider true lights out facilities and give serious consideration to places like Tasmania.
7. Ensure you have visibility of the real long term maintenace costs

I hope you find this helpful as I think the strategy needs to be more focussed to get reasonable benefits in a tactical to strategic time-frame.

Regards
Verghese

We congratulate AGIMO for publishing the draft SOR and pricing principles for industry and public comment prior to the final release of the RFT for Data Centre Facilities capability. We see this as just one of the steps to demonstrate the Government delivering on its commitments under the Government and Industry Principles of Engagement on ICT.

As a T4 DSD Australian data centre operator and managed services provider we support the objectives of the Australian Government Data Centre Strategy and the focus it brings to this area.

We note that paras 11.8 and 11.13 seem to be placing the emphasis on the Data Centre Provider to determine priorities between agencies in the event of a disaster recovery situation. We question if it is more appropriate this to be a decision of government and the agencies tenanted to better reflect whole of government priorities.

The Government’s Data Centre Strategy contains a commitment to working with the smaller 50% of agencies to consolidate their requirements into common facilities and to aggregate their requirements to achieve efficiencies. From our experience much of the benefit in this area can come from managed services (potentially using shared infrastructure). How do you see this operating optimally if there are differences between the facilities provider and the service provider and differing needs of the agencies? How would any risk be allocated in managing these differences?

We support the inclusion of strategic opportunities in the SOR – in particular the focus on electrical efficiency. The draft SOR implies that the agencies will control what equipment is used at the facility. Indeed the focus is on providing conditioned space, albeit in a “green” environment. However, a number of the efficiency measures referred to in the SOR (sourced from the US Congress report) such as consolidation of servers/storage, use of energy efficient equipment, enabling power management of applications, servers, storage etc seem to be outside of the Data Centre Provider’s control based on the SOR. How do you see this operating in practice where the facility is separated from the services?

Macquarie Telecom looks forward to the opportunity of continuing to work with AGIMO, our existing government clients and other agencies to implement and achieve the objectives and benefits of this ICT consolidation process. Macquarie Telecom provides a full range of managed hosting and telecommunications services to core Departments and external agencies
[http://www.macquarietelecom.com/hosting/data_centre/data_centre.htm]

We have repeated here the comments in relation to the Pricing Principles so as to link to the general commentary on the draft SOR for Data Centre Facilities.

Industry (refer to the AIIA Whole of Government Data Centres Strategy Industry Best Practice Principles) has recommended that government encourages respondents to propose and price their solutions based on minimum capacity. The rationale for this is that if provides flexibility and will encourage efficiency and rationalisation of footprints – a key targeted outcome of the data centre strategy. We seek clarification of how the draft pricing principles released for discussion would support this pricing methodology.

In response to commentary, AGIMO has indicated that your current thinking is that Data Centre as a Service (DCaaS) solutions are “likely to be placed in data centre facilities sourced from the Data Centre Services Panel” notwithstanding that these may be different commercial providers. We support the comments raised by JR Dan DCaaS on this point and the potential benefits that may be achieved by government of having DCaaS solutions provided in that service provider’s own facilities.

We seek clarification as to whether agencies would be mandated to specify that DCaaS had to be provided in facilities sourced from the Data Centre Facilities Panel? Who would have the onus to ensure access arrangements for the DCaaS provider?

I have received comments about the SoR suggesting that contrary to what is suggested in Section 3.2 of the SoR it would not be in the Government's interest to require land security along with development and operating rights prior to the award of a contract. It was suggested to me that this requirement:

(a) Limits industry participants and may increase their costs by tying up capital, which increases the rate of return required by tenderers to compensate for the additional risk taken;

(b) Unnecessarily favours incumbents and discourages new entrants; and,

(c) Encourages unnecessary and potentially uncompetitive 'land-locking' over the period from the RFT issuance until the expiration of the panel, which you mention in your blog may be 5 years.

I certainly hope this is not the case since the SoR only tells part of the story. As I wrote to Emma earlier, this isn't just a panel arrangement. We also intend to enter some pre lease type arrangements with some providers, this should help overcome these concerns This is mentioned in the Data Centre Strategy. We know that entering longer leases assists vendors in securing their upfront investment.

I want to thank everyone who has provided comment on the Data Centres SoR. Although at least one of your comments is still owed a response from me, I am now drawing a close to further comments on our initial blog post.

Thank you for your interest, we have received a great deal of very useful input, which we are continuing to work through.

Last updated: 27 July 2016