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Getting to the Bleeding Edge of the Decommissioning Projects

Decommissioning
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Edges and circles may not be a natural physical fit. Yet, the principles of circular economy based on green asset recovery and smooth cloud transition apply to the decommissioning of the edge data centers with the same level of efficiency and utility as with their more well-known technological cousins - data centers.

The familial resemblance stops here, as edge data centers act more as a linchpin connecting major data centers with data sources. This is why we often find them closer to the modern-day data forges – large cities and population centers in which the wheels that churn out the digital gold of today work ceaselessly. 

Yet another wheel never stops – that of progress and with the advent of new tech, the decommissioning of edge data centers became an issue that should be approached with an equal focus on budgetary considerations and the need to handle our home planet with due care.

So, how do we do this? Getting back to the circular asset recovery model, we extract the maximum value from the assets designated for decommissions with as few costs as possible and the focus on recycling, rejuvenation, reuse, and salvaging. Let’s see how this works in practice for you, your business, and the third blue speck from the Sun.

Are Edge Data Centers Really that Different?

Service providers and carriers make use of edge data centers to bring the functionality of regular data centers closer to the customers. As such, these micro-modular data centers (MMDC) perform three important functions: data analysis is performed more efficiently; storage is faster; and, the processing is upscaled. Based on this, edge data centers improve response times, promote innovations, and achieve better overall performance.

For the purpose of decommissioning, we have to bear in mind that the edge data centers are self-contained i.e. autonomous, with components such as IT equipment, servers, electrical and mechanical devices, and infrastructure.

The concept of the circular economy we apply to the decommissioning of the edge data centers relies on giving you the most benefits at the lowest cost, and with the least damage to the environment. For your business, this means streamlining the hardware disposal process and making decommissioned resources a source of revenue. 

This is achieved by having some of the IT assets rejuvenated or recycled, some of them reused and restored to their original functionality, while the rest is salvaged and refurbished. In this manner, we create a cycle (thus a “circular” economy) in which the decommissioned resources are rarely disposed of in the strictest sense, but rather reused with sustainability in mind.

How Does It Work?

While we approach each edge data center as an individual project, we apply the same general decommissioning steps in order to ensure the same outcomes for both the assets and the customers. 

Stage 1: Planning and Auditing

Based on our experience with the decommissioning projects done with the edge data centers, we know that their level of success depends much on the project planning stage. It involves extensive preparations which start by going to the site itself to perform a detailed evaluation of the existing IT assets and infrastructure. This is called auditing and it helps our teams get the full grasp of the complexity of the project we need to undertake, the distribution of assets, and the assessment of their type.

Once this is done, we go ahead with the decommissioning plan which takes into account all unique challenges that we identify on the site of the edge data center. 

We then draft an asset inventory list, together with the grid map with coordinates and the classification of the hardware types. This inventory helps us prepare a road map for the implementation of the project and an estimate of how long it would take.

Security is yet another important consideration in this case. Just like regular data centers, the MMDC centers often feature security systems that prevent unauthorized access to the facility. We get in touch with the customer to determine what measures are being used and how we can get access to the site in the most efficient way to get the job done.

Stage 2: Getting the Site Ready

This stage starts with a physical visit to the site and taking note of how to organize the orderly and the most efficient physical removal of the assets. A key contact person here is the site manager who we get in touch with in order to confirm our plan for keeping track of the decommissioned equipment and taking inventory of it. This is necessary to avoid disrupting the site’s operation during the decommissioning operation.

We also use this opportunity to check the accuracy of the layout of the customer’s site and verify the safety measures we plan to implement during the procedure. This involves plotting safety corridors and zones which are to be used as the assets and people are separated from each other.

Once the project begins, these visits become daily ones, as we need to keep track of the changing daily conditions and the speed with which the decommissioning project is being carried out.

Stage 3: Physical Removal of Assets 

Physical decommissioning of assets takes place across several sub-stages. All devices are disconnected and removed in line with the plan and what was agreed with the customer and the site manager. The process starts with the decoupling of power cords and wires which are subsequently removed from the site. After this, we disconnect blades, power supply as well as hard drives and servers. Speaking of servers, we separate them from the battery packs in order to better prepare them for individual transport.

Next, we tackle network switches and the racks they are placed on, together with rail kits and cabinets.  In addition to the standard assets found at edge data centers, we can also handle outdated equipment ( firewalls, routers, and SANs) together with UPS devices, docking stations, and peripheries such as mice and keyboards. Our teams will also get rid of the obsolete transformers, legacy cables, spare telecommunication parts, and circuit breakers.

After this, we use boxes and pallets to store the hardware for shipping. Prior to the actual transport, all of the equipment is properly shrink-wrapped and labeled followed by its loading onto vehicles.

Stage 4: Safe Custody of Decommissioned Equipment

Once the physical decommissioning on the site is done, we move on with ensuring safe custody for the assets involved. Pallets and boxes with the equipment are loaded onto vehicles and photographed prior to being sealed. After the drivers fill out the appropriate documents, the equipment is taken to our facility for further treatment.

At the facility, the documentation and the state of the sealed containers are checked. Each box is opened and its content photographed to be checked against the available images. The documents are scanned for the purpose of converting them to separate electronic documentation for each order. In this manner, we provide the chain of custody for each piece of equipment.

Electronic documentation is needed for our inventory tracking systems. It helps us perform assessments and prepare assets for resale, salvaging, or recycling.

Before we proceed with HDD resale, however, we need to perform comprehensive removal of data that might exist on the decommissioned hardware. This can take place both at a targeted edge data center or at our facility after the hard disks have been removed. In any case, data destruction is performed in line with the latest data erasure standards such as the Guidelines for Media Sanitization issued by the US Government. Another option is shredding which is usually done if the customers insist on it or the drives are too old to be of any use.

Stage 5: Extracting the Value from the Decommissioned Assets

Once the data is destroyed, we proceed with recovering the value of the equipment sourced from the edge data centers. This includes salvaging and recovery of useful parts, their recycling, and whole product resale. Recovered parts are evaluated for resale on the market and prepared for it by being thoroughly tested. We use state-of-the-art equipment to determine the state of a recovered asset in order to price them optimally.

If a customer wishes so, some assets can be prepared to be redeployed for internal use by another department or at another location. In this manner, we want to offer both the highest level of flexibility in the treatment of the decommissioned assets and get the highest value possible for them.

Yet, not all of the parts can be saved, salvaged, or remarketed and they are perfect candidates for recycling. This primarily refers to the assets that are either too old or broken beyond repair. When recycling, we observe the standards that meet the latest in safety and environmental protection. Upon its completion, appropriate certificates are issued, with the information on the facility at which the recycling was done and the environmental standards applied in the process.

Stage 6: Reporting

Finally, reporting serves as proof of a job well done and includes documentation on the chain of custody, the state, the receipt, and the quantification of the treated equipment. These reports list hardware models, their serial numbers, dates of reception, weight, etc. They also describe the treatment given to individual assets, be it data destruction, recycling, reuse, recovery, remarketing, etc.

Wrap-up

At the end of the day, we can say that we recognize the importance of giving the edge data centers the same level of treatment when it comes to decommissioning. We believe that our experience with “regular” data centers has helped us get to the bleeding edge of the decommissioning business and this is where we are currently meeting with the edge data centers to create new success stories and push the boundaries further each time we get to its happily-ever-after.