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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 edge data centers with the same level of efficiency and utility as they do to 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 has become 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? In the circular asset recovery model, we extract the maximum value from assets designated for decommissions with as few costs as possible and a 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 use edge data centers to bring the functionality of regular data centers closer to the customers. These micro-modular data centers (MMDC) perform three important functions: efficient data analysis, faster storage, and upscaled processing. 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 edge data centers are self-contained i.e., autonomous, with components such as IT equipment, servers, electrical and mechanical devices, and infrastructure.

Applying the circular economy concept to the decommissioning of edge data centers gives 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 your 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, in the strictest sense, rarely disposed of, and 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 positive outcomes for both assets and customers. 

Stage 1: Planning and Auditing

We know from experience that the success of decommissioning projects for edge data centers depends significantly on the project planning stage. This step involves extensive preparation, starting with a site visit to conduct a detailed evaluation of the existing IT assets and infrastructure. This is called auditing and it helps our teams grasp the full complexity of the project we need to undertake, the distribution of assets, and the assessment of the project type.

Once this is done, we develop a decommissioning plan which takes into account all the unique challenges that we identify onsite. 

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

Security is another important consideration in this case. Just like regular data centers, MMDCs often feature security systems that prevent unauthorized access to the facility. We get in touch with the customer to understand the security measures being used so that we can obtain 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 to evaluate how to organize an orderly and efficient physical removal of assets. Our key point of contact is the site manager, with whom we coordinate to keep track of the decommissioned equipment and inventory. 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 site layout and verify the safety measures we plan to implement during the procedure. This involves plotting safety corridors and zones to be used when assets and people need to be separated.

Once the project begins, these site visits are done on a daily basis to keep track of changing conditions and the speed of the decommissioning project.

Stage 3: Physical Removal of Assets 

Physical decommissioning of assets takes place over several sub-stages. We disconnect and remove all devices according to the plan we have agreed on with the customer and 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. We separate the servers from the battery packs to prepare them for individual transport.

Next, we tackle network switches, the racks they are placed on, rail kits, and cabinets.  In addition to the standard assets at edge data centers, we also handle outdated equipment (firewalls, routers, and SANs), UPS devices, docking stations, and peripheries such as mice and keyboards. Our teams also get rid of 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, and then loaded onto vehicles.

Stage 4: Safe Custody of Decommissioned Equipment

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

At the facility, the documentation is checked, as is the state of the sealed containers. Each box is opened, and its content photographed to check against the original images. The documents are scanned and converted to electronic documentation for each separate order. Electronic documentation is needed for our inventory tracking systems. It helps us perform assessments and prepare assets for resale, salvaging, or recycling.

In this manner, we provide the chain of custody for each piece of equipment.

Before we proceed with HDD resale, however, we need to perform a comprehensive removal of the data that might exist on the decommissioned hardware. This can take place both at the specific edge data center or at our facility after the hard disks have been removed. Either way, 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 if the drives are too old to be of any use.

Stage 5: Extracting 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 recovering useful parts, recycling, and whole product resale. Recovered parts are evaluated for resale on the market and 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 so wishes, some assets can be prepared to be redeployed for internal use by another department or at another location. We want to offer the highest level of flexibility in the treatment of decommissioned assets, as well as get the highest possible value for them.

Not all parts can be saved, salvaged, or remarketed - and they are perfect candidates for recycling. This refers primarily to 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 completion, we issue the appropriate certificates with information about 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, and so on.

 Wrap-up

At the end of the day, we recognize the importance of giving 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 edge data centers to create new success stories and push the boundaries further each time we get to its happily-ever-after.