Will Vivek Kundra’s departure have a negative effect on Green IT in government?
I wonder how much Vivek Kundra’s departure will slow down the government’s innovation, which is already too slow! I may be able to understand Vivek’s frustration with the Federal Government. He is responsible for Data.gov. His plans to consolidate over 800 federal data centers, the Federal Cloud Strategy, and his legacy of the “25 Point Plan” are stuff of legend. I mean how long does it take to steer the course of an aircraft carrier? The federal government is a huge ship that moves very slow. Vivek’s a pretty young guy, so he may not know that it takes a while to move large federal agencies within the beltway, or maybe he does and he’s too impatient to see it through. Nevertheless, he did a great job as the nation’s first CIO. Saving a 3 billion dollars with the IT Dashboard, while serving the President of the United States is no shabby undertaking. My fear is that the government will return to the status quo. This position requires extreme technical intelligence, business practicality, and fiscal activism. My hope is that Richard Spires, CIO of the Department of Homeland Security ensures that the next CIO sticks with the plan. The last thing we need is the beltway shuffle with these innovative initiatives.
To get an idea how far we’ve come in two years, let me tell you. Two years ago I had the pleasure of attending the USGBC Federal Summit back in 2009. I think I was the only IT representative there at the time. We had most agencies represented from the federal government. I was interested in the sessions on high performance buildings and data centers, recovery money, and green procurement. This was right before the President’s E.O. 13415 was created. Everyone was throwing around environmental goals for each agency. Someone said the goal was to reduce the carbon footprint by up to 20% within 10 years. I was flabbergasted, so as vocal as I am, I stood up and asked an implied question. “How come the government is spending millions of dollars to become energy efficient by 20% over ten years when they can become energy efficient by 40% within one year just by turning the agency computers off evenings and weekends? I mean power management software costs between $20 and $30 per desktop, and the maintenance on my iPhone costs more, and I pay that every month.” You could’ve heard a pen drop. After that several representatives from different agencies came up to me after the session.
Now what do you think transpired after that meeting? Not much. I had a few meetings, which did not lead to any major opportunities. Until this day, I only know of a couple agency-wide utilization of power management software. Since that time, maybe 20 to 30 PC & Server Power Management companies have come on the scene. Another example is that I let the Greenest Congressman evaluate our Verdio Green PC, which only uses 27watts of power. The IT Manager assigned to this Congressman’s office was your typical IT guy. Whatever powerful systems he could get within budget, he would get with no thought to cost or energy consumption. So upon return at the end of the POC, I asked him what did he think about the Verdio. His response caught me off guard, “It works pretty good, but it isn’t powerful enough.” I said, “but your staffers are running Microsoft Office, how much power do you need?” His response, “A couple guys use digital video, so all our systems are 4 core standardized.” I was stunned! Just two guys run video, and the whole office is standardized on 4 core desktop PCs. This is the Greenest Congressman on Capitol Hill? I think we need to run Moore’s Law in reverse because less is more. I have 14GB on my iPhone 3G that I will never fully use. I know I need the 4G, but I won’t get it until the 3G dies, then I’ll recycle it. Today’s computers are too much, we could never think fast enough, or type fast enough to realize the computing power and capacity. Energy efficient PCs from EnergyStar to EPEAT Gold were just beginning to become new standards, and today they are the standard.
Another agency in region 4, has a $1.4 million dollar toner budget. I showed them presentations, videos, and white papers on Green Printing Technologies. I basically told them I could cut their toner budget in half saving them $700 million dollars annually. I got nothing! I did however get a promise that maybe a couple of agencies will pilot the technology. I’m still waiting.
On a good note, virtualization has gone from early adopter stage to mainstream, moving to the cloud. I mean, just like 4 core desktop PCs, servers are extreme pieces of machinery, and if we don’t virtualize them, it’s like driving a Porsche 10 miles an hour. Who does that? The server huggers are still present throughout federal government, but the learning curve is getting shorter these days. The ability of Vivek Kundra to see the big picture of moving workloads to the Cloud, is either genius or naive. Genius because it makes total economic sense, naive because you think big government silos go away fast. Either way, he was certainly disruptive in a very positive way. I hope his idea of more transparency within IT budgets never goes away. In the 90’s I sold software to federal agencies that never seen the light of day, but was purchased to meet the deadline for the federal buying season. Someone needs to address the archaic procurement process, or better yet, implement the change management that must occur before agencies start making purchases on behalf of the people. You know, the ones that pay taxes for all this computer stuff.