PricewaterhouseCoopers feasibility study provides valuable insight into Government of Canada Data Centre Environment
For several years Government of Canada officials have been working on modernizing government’s information technology (IT) services. The overall focus has been on improving the efficiency not just of data centres, but also of email services, networks and IT security.
As part of that work, and to better understand the data centre environment and leverage industry expertise, a third-party organization—PricewaterhouseCoopers—was engaged to undertake a data centre feasibility study and to identify potential models for the delivery of data centre services for the Government of Canada (GC).
Additionally, on August 4, 2011, Shared Services Canada (SSC) was created, with an initial focus that extends beyond data centres to include both email and networks. The work done by PricewaterhouseCoopers is a very useful analysis of the current state of data centres across the Government of Canada and it provides opinions and outlines the risks and benefits which will contribute to the detailed planning that Shared Services Canada will undertake.
Data Centre Environment
Data centres are specialized rooms or buildings with complex mechanical, electrical, and cooling systems which house the data storage and computing equipment used to run Government of Canada programs and services for Canadians.
The government has over 300 data centres across the countrythat store data and computing equipment for departments. In some data centres, there is excess computing capacity that is barely used, while other data centres are straining to meet the current demand. Each has different reliability and security standards, and older data centres are less energy efficient and have out-of-date heating and cooling systems that are very costly to replace. This is not reliable or economical.
In 2010, the Auditor General warned that some aging IT systems are at risk. She noted, that the “
renewal and modernization of IT systems does not happen overnight… it takes careful planning over the long term, and implementation can take five years or longer.”
As the GC relies more and more on technology, there is a need to ensure that these systems are modern, secure, and efficient. The ability to deliver mission-critical GC programs such as the Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security Pension programs, mortgage approvals, public health information portals and others may be at risk due to the deterioration and obsolescence of essential government data centres.
PricewaterhouseCoopers’ data centre feasibility study examined options for the management of government data centres and processes and, although it does not make specific recommendations on a timeframe to consolidate data centres, it indicates that this could take as little as five years and as many as 15 years, based on examples in other government jurisdictions.
While the study did not produce a detailed implementation plan, it provides enough analysis to support more detailed planning work on transitioning departmental IT infrastructure resources to Shared Services Canada and the further development of a comprehensive consolidation plan.
Shared Services Canada’s Role
Shared Services Canada will further analyze and review recommendations from the feasibility study along with various other sources to help develop any necessary implementation plans and strategies as it moves ahead.
Shared Services Canada is a new organization and it is in the initial stages of establishing its structure and formulating its implementation plans. Along with consolidation of existing resources and IT infrastructure across government, the organization’s focus will be on reducing duplication and making better use of government assets.
Data Centre Sustainability
Also currently underway is a four-year sustainability project, which began in 2010, to take actions in the short- to medium-term to sustain a number of high-risk data centres belonging to several departments in the National Capital Area.
This project addresses concerns raised by the Auditor General in 2010 regarding aging IT systems and infrastructure.
The project will take four years to complete and will:
- Implement repairs to, and/or replacements of, mechanical, electrical, and cooling equipment in four SSC data centres; and
- Acquire and implement modern, powerful, energy-efficient computing technologies, and rationalize IT workloads in order to make the most effective use of existing data centre capacity. Estimates indicate that this rationalization could result in a data centre efficiency gain of approximately 20 per cent.
Leveraging industry services with Data Centre Co-location
Data Centre Co-location is an initiative to acquire additional data centre capacity from the private sector, on a fee-for-service basis. It addresses a number of common risks and issues in Government of Canada data centres, mostly related to the aging infrastructure and lack of capacity.
Contracts to acquire these services were awarded to Bell Canada in December 2010. Bell began constructing of a new data centre facility in the National Capital Region, which will be available by January 2013.
The additional capacity provided by the co-location services will support Shared Services Canada’s ability to continue to provide data centre services for the Government of Canada.
Economic Benefits of Shared Services Canada
Shared Services Canada will find efficiencies in the Government of Canada’s IT infrastructure and save taxpayer dollars. Consolidation will also ensure that the government’s IT infrastructure is more reliable and more secure.
Over the medium term, this means reducing the number of data centres from over 300 to less than 20 and making sure they’re robust, secure and energy efficient. It also includes moving the government to one email system, reducing the number of networks that connect to data centres, and streamlining networks in our buildings.
Where it makes sense to do so, the government will pursue public-private partnerships, and will use the government’s purchasing power to get the best possible prices from the private sector.
- PricewaterhouseCoopers – data centre feasibility study
- August 4, 2011, creation of Shared Services Canada
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