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Obama: US $3bn data centre shutdown ahead of schedule

More than the 800 facilities, already selected for closure, may be shut down

President Barack Obama has said a US government data centre closure programme, aimed at saving $3 billion (£1.8 billion) in annual running costs, is ahead of schedule.

The plan, announced last year, will see at least 800 facilities closed, after the president branded them as "duplicative". The White House said this week that 373 data centres will have been shut by the end of 2012, at current rates of progress. The programme will end three years later.

More data centres are being selected for closure, the government said, as individual departments produce a detailed analysis of their usage - and therefore the savings target may be increased.

Success in the US raises the question of what is happening in the UK, where the government has said that the 8,000 data centres in use could be cut down to 12, saving up to £500 million. But a government G-cloud initiative, aimed at polling this reduced server infrastructure across government departments appears to have been put on the back burner.

In the US, many of the facilities have been using only 27 percent of their computer power, in spite of taxpayers footing the bill for the entire infrastructure, property and energy costs. Typical data centre power usage is 200 times that of standard office space, the White House noted in a statement.

Over a ten year period from 1998, the number of US government data centres rose from 432 to over 2,000. The White House said this "proliferation of infrastructure" had created "unnecessary and redundant systems and applications" in government, at a time the private sector had been reducing waste.

Vivek Kundra, the outgoing US chief information officer who pushed for the server cut, highlighted the cost savings in infrastructure, property and energy. He added: "At the same time, it will improve the security of government data and allow us to focus on leveraging technology to make government services work better for the American people."

One of the largest data centres being cut is a 195,000 square foot Department of Homeland Security facility in Alabama, the size of more than three US football fields. Another target is the facilities of the Department of the Treasury, where a 13,000 square foot facility in Maryland will be closed. This facility has 75 racks, hosts 250 servers, and costs more than $400,000 (£250,000) a year for leasing and electricity alone.

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