Federal data center answer may be found in Facebook

By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor

When you’re the chief technology officer for, of all places, the Energy Department, sustainability ought to be top of mind. It is for Pete Tseronis, who is DoE’s Chief Technology Officer.

At AFCEA Bethesda’s Energy and Environment IT Day, he explained for Federal News Radio how the meaning of a data center is changing.

If you’d have asked me about three months ago, I probably wouldn’t have had the exciting comment that I’m about to state…


So there’s the facility aspect, there’s consolidating, there’s closing data centers, there’s the whole brick-and-mortar aspect of this. Less is more, if you will, but there’s still the idea of how do you become more energy efficient with the equipment, the infrastructure itself…

A lot of people point to virtualization in terms of having fewer servers, i.e. fewer racks.

About a month ago, as I stated, I had a meeting with my CIO, Mike Locatis, and Aneesh Chopra [Chief Technology Officer of the United States] and we were discussing some exciting opportunities at DoE, and Facebook came into the mix.

They’ve recently opened a data center out in Prineville, Oregon. You’ve probably heard about it. It is a really green, state-of-the-art data center that isn’t just about the brick-and-mortar aspect, the facility. It’s about the infrastructure.

So partnering with companies like Intel, Dell and some others, what Facebook’s done in Oregon is built not just a new facility, but one where the infrastructure that’s housed in that facility is energy efficient. Meaning boxes and servers and routes are constructed differently to heat and cool and so forth, or to absorb heat and to cool differently. I mean they don’t look anything like the typical server room routes and so forth.

So, now we’re seeing a migration to be more efficient with the construction of equipment. It’s titled the Open Compute Project and our CIO, Mike Locatis, got to sit on the panel, was invited to sit on the panel in Palo Alto, I want to say around April 7, and then on the 15th, when they had the ribbon cutting in Oregon where the actual data center’s housed.

It’s really a state of the art…they say “open compute” because it’s much like in the open source realm. Facebook has said, “Here’s the plans, here are the blueprints, here are the things that we are designing. Feel free to look and build accordingly.” And I think that’s a transformative or transformational way of leveraging a best practice but also saying we should all be doing this as we construct data centers, because they’re not all going to go away. There are still going to be facilities.

For more about the greening of the IT supply chain and the return on investment in sustainability from Energy CTO Peter Tseronis, click on the audio player at the top of the page.

For more interviews from the event, click here.

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