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Monday, 22 March 2010 11:16

Govt data centres: Tanner takes control


Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner has centralised billions of dollars worth of technology purchasing power within the Department of Finance as part a sweeping changes to the way the Commonwealth manages its data centre operations.

The 15-year whole of government strategy, which aggregates and consolidates the Federal Government's data centre requirements - for physical space, infrastructure and services - is the biggest single change to Government ICT procurement since 1996.

The changes effectively take the planning, procurement and management of Commonwealth data centres out of the hands of individual departments and agencies, and centralises it within the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO).

Speaking at a CeBIT conference in Sydney this morning, Mr Tanner said the strategy would consolidate the number of data centre sites used by government across Australia, and deliver well over a $1 billion in savings.

"Sharing sites and services will reduce the duplication, inefficiencies and un-necessary costs associated with base infrastructure," Mr Tanner said.

The long-anticipated data centre strategy changes were first canvassed in the Gershon Review of Government ICT procurement and use, but been the subject of a series of consulting reports.

Mr Tanner said a large part of the savings foreshadowed by Sir Peter Gershon would be delivered through consolidation measures. But huge efficiency gains would also be realised by aggregating Government's data centre services needs.

The Federal Government currently spends $850 million on data centre services, with different departments and agencies contracting separately to meet their needs. Under the new plan, these services will be procured centrally.

"The key element of this strategy is that the Australian Government's data centre requirements will be planned, procured and managed on a coordinated whole-of-government basis," Mr Tanner said.

"This means that Government agencies will be mandated to apply the data centre strategy and will no longer enter into separate arrangements."

"The Government will acquire data centre facilities and services via a whole of government arrangement that are in line with the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines."

"A panel of suppliers will be established and it will become mandatory for agencies to utilise this panel as their existing data centre services require replacement."

The Government will go to market in the second half of the year seeking suppliers. Mr Tanner is expected to announce further details of the strategy at the eGovernment Forum event at CeBIT Australia just after the Budget sitting of parliament in May.

Mr Tanner moved top reassure vendors and service companies that the consolidation plans did mean fewer opportunities to sell into government. He said the planning had been conscious of its potential impact on industry and that the strategy would "encourage innovation and competition."

He said the strategy would call for data centre inside and outside of the Australian Capital territory. The minimum level of floor space the Government will consider under the strategy would be 500 square metres, which much be available under year lease with the option for a five year extension, he said.

"Geographic factors too had to be taken into account in the formation of this strategy," Mr Tanner said.

"Issues such as the benefits of free cooling using ambient air temperatures, the relative advantages of centralised versus decentralised designs, and the capacity of the telecommunications network and electricity grid all had to be considered.

He said government the environmental impact of data centres and energy consumption were also big considerations.

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