Jan 25 2024
Data Center

Are Your AI Services Sustainable?

The White House wants agencies to consider the energy consumption of the data centers supporting their tools.

Agencies must consider the environmental impact of the artificial intelligence services they procure to ensure they are sustainable, according to a recent White House memo.

The Office of Management and Budget recommends evaluating whether AI vendors use methods to improve efficiency, as well as the carbon emissions and resource consumption of supporting data centers.

OMB stated that the memo, released March 28, is consistent with the AI executive order President Joe Biden issued last year directing agencies to advance the technology’s governance and innovation while managing risks to rights and public safety. Meanwhile, members of Congress are working to pass the Artificial Intelligence Environmental Impacts Act, which would create sustainability metrics for the technology and a voluntary reporting framework for developers.

All of these are steps toward promoting secure and trustworthy AI, which is essential as agencies explore new tools promising a competitive edge, such as ChatGPT. Agencies currently have an opportunity to improve their infrastructures to support these emerging solutions.

Many agencies cannot yet handle the high-performance data demands and energy requirements needed to maximize the benefits of AI. In fact, legacy systems often cannot support the massive AI data pipelines required to get the most from machine learning models. And while AI brings immense promise, its impact on energy use can be surprising.

Click the banner below to explore sustainability options for your agency.


According to new research, 89 percent of IT managers are concerned about AI’s need for increased computing power affecting their ability to meet their environmental, social and governance goals, and 88 percent agree that meeting ESG goals is impossible without properly preparing their IT infrastructure to support AI initiatives.

These hidden costs of AI pose a challenge to successfully implementing critical agency initiatives, including those aimed at achieving environmental goals. As AI adoption accelerates, federal IT leaders must develop and execute a meaningful data strategy to ensure they can efficiently and effectively operationalize AI through the proper infrastructure while managing the environmental impacts.

How to Couple AI with Environmental Goals

With AI being adopted rapidly, agencies must strike a balance between managing the massive energy requirements and still making progress on ESG goals. The challenge for IT leaders is not just about creating a durable AI architecture; it’s also about embracing AI in a way that aligns with their priority ESG objectives.

Sixty percent of IT buyers who have already adopted AI technologies (or plan to in the next 12 months) say they have invested or will invest in more energy-efficient hardware to meet their ESG goals. This focus on sustainability initiatives can set agencies up for success.

READ MORE: Modern data center solutions take sustainability into account.

Architectural efficiency lowers costs, allows agencies to meet their most demanding requirements and helps build sustainable data storage and management solutions. Alignment to green initiatives, including power, energy and other sustainability goals, enables IT to advocate for more sustainable platform choices.

Agencies can rethink their infrastructures to support AI initiatives while meeting their ESG goals. By investing in a flexible data storage foundation that grows as needs evolve, agencies can optimize efficiency and performance at every step of the AI process.

Embrace New Federal AI Standards

As AI becomes a more frequent adaptation for federal agencies, the Biden administration is ramping up focus on AI adoption and regulation. The recent executive order establishes new standards for AI in a number of categories, including safety and security, privacy, equity and civil rights, supporting consumers and workers, innovation and competition, American leadership, and government use of AI. These factors demonstrate the vision for integrating safe and secure solutions in all agencies.

The executive order also lays out robust frameworks for harnessing AI’s benefits and managing its risks. The sustainable scaling of AI solutions will become more prevalent in the coming months. By maintaining and investing in new, sustainable architectures, agencies can embrace AI to improve business continuity and recovery times in the event of a disaster; cut weeks off upgrade time to reduce storage rack space; and modernize and scale to eliminate storage complexity.

DISCOVER: New cooling technologies can help AI environments use less energy.

Implementing AI within an agency’s processes and operations can be highly effective in enabling agencies to achieve greater agility, increase citizen satisfaction, improve operational excellence and accelerate innovation.

However, as ESG adoption has become more critical to the federal government, agencies face the challenge of balancing environmental impact with business-driven objectives to harness the value of exponential data growth.

As agencies work toward meeting net-zero goals without compromising the pace of innovation, their IT leaders should increasingly look to embrace AI in ways that align with ESG objectives. Those who begin with a critical look at their infrastructure will end up saving costs, time and agency resources.

Kalawin/Getty Images

Learn from Your Peers

What can you glean about security from other IT pros? Check out new CDW research and insight from our experts.