How to deal with outdated data center hardware?
Time of issue:2023-10-26
It's no secret that the servers, network switches, and other hardware resources that power data centers need to be replaced sooner or later. But that doesn't mean the replacement hardware is worthless and should be thrown away. Instead, there are multiple ways to use the hardware. There are also good reasons to extend the life of outdated data center hardware, including but not limited to improving the sustainability of data center operations.
Why does data center hardware become obsolete?
Before we dive into how to repurpose outdated data center hardware, let's briefly cover how the hardware became obsolete in the first place.
In many senses, "obsolete" is more of a state of mind than a tangible reality. Data center hardware becomes obsolete when a data center operator decides it is obsolete, not because the hardware has actually reached the end of its useful life. Replacing data center hardware prematurely not only wastes money but is also bad for the environment.
It's important to understand this fact because, arguably, the best thing you can do for seemingly outdated data center hardware is to make sure it's not obsolete at all. In other words, think carefully about whether the hardware is simply old but still capable of doing its job, or whether it truly is no longer up to the task of hosting the workload.
This is an especially important lesson today, as data center hardware is no longer evolving at the same pace as it once was. A server purchased a few years ago may provide similar memory and computing power to a server purchased today. There's also no need to refresh hardware as frequently as in the past to ensure it's up to date from a resource capacity perspective.
In fact, Microsoft decided last year to extend the official lifespan of its cloud data center servers from four to six years. If more data center operators did the same, there would be less outdated hardware to contend with in the first place.
Strategies for repurposing outdated data center hardware
Of course, all hardware becomes obsolete sooner or later. At this point, we should be looking for ways to keep it valuable, whether in our own business or elsewhere, rather than consigning it to the trash heap.
Work with hardware decommissioning vendors
Perhaps the easiest way to extend the life of outdated hardware is to work with a company that specializes in data center equipment retrofits. Vendors like ITRenew have built their businesses around reselling servers that data center operators consider obsolete for their purposes but are still valuable to others.
The result is a win-win-win for data center operators, resellers, and their customers. Data center operators can repurpose obsolete hardware in a streamlined manner, resellers can easily access such hardware, and reseller customers can obtain enterprise-grade equipment at a lower cost. It's also a win for the environment, as repurposing hardware is more sustainable than throwing old servers into the dump and releasing the carbon needed to build new ones.
Repurpose hardware in your business
Another way to reuse outdated hardware is to repurpose it within your own business. For example, servers no longer tasked with hosting production environments can power development/test environments.
To be sure, not all outdated hardware can serve a useful purpose within an enterprise, especially if the enterprise already has the hardware needed to support its operations. But the point here is that before you decide that throwing out outdated hardware is the only possible fate, look for ways to continue using it within your enterprise.
Reuse hardware components
In some cases, the data center hardware as a whole may no longer be available, but individual parts remain available.
For example, a server's disk drive might be too old to be reliable. However, replacing the disk while retaining other components may allow us to continue operating the hardware.
Or the server might be equipped with a fancy GPU. The server may lack the CPU or memory to get the most out of the GPU, but can just resell the GPU, which may still fetch a good price in the market.
Ancillary components required to run data center hardware, such as cables and UPS units, can also often be reused for much longer than the servers they power. If you are dismantling a server rack, be sure to keep any supplemental equipment for use elsewhere in the data center or for resale.
Outdated data center hardware does not equate to unavailable data center hardware. Instead, businesses that want to optimize costs while reducing their carbon footprint must ensure that their hardware runs as long as possible before it is considered obsolete.