When it comes to IT asset disposition (ITAD), or the process of recovering and safely disposing of obsolete or unwanted IT equipment and business technology, in theory data center decommissioning should be no different than decommissioning any other type of enterprise IT asset.

The data center, like all areas of the corporate enterprise, has IT equipment that is periodically replaced and must be dispositioned in accordance with e-waste recycling regulations. This equipment typically has sensitive data stored on hard drives and other storage media that must be protected from unauthorized access in compliance with information security and data privacy laws when it’s being retired. Whenever and wherever possible, the decommissioned IT equipment is remarketed with the proceeds used to cover the various costs of disposition including reverse logistics, data erasure and asset processing. So, whether you’re dispositioning laptops from a corporate office or servers from a data center, it’s all the same ITAD, right?

Well, no it’s not. Or at least it shouldn’t be. While using a “general ITAD” solution for data center is more common than not, I liken it to seeing a family doctor for a brain trauma. Sure, a general practitioner knows the full anatomy and will likely be able to at least hypothesize as to the brain ailment. But just as the brain is the center of the nervous system, the data center has become central to today’s world of cloud computing, big data and everything-as-a-service. For something so important, wouldn’t you ultimately see a specialist?

Surprisingly, very few companies seek out and use a specialized ITAD solution for their data centers. There are myriad reasons why, but most commonly:

  • They simply don’t know that data center ITAD specialists exist, which isn’t a shock because not many do. At least ones that are truly specialized in their data center solution design, and not just what they say on their websites.
  • Data center decommissioning is in a relative infancy stage compared to ITAD for corporate IT. In fact, cloud startups launched within the past five years or so may just now be preparing for their first major technology refresh. So, the thought process of how best to decommission data center IT may be still formative or even completely foreign to some companies.
  • In more traditional businesses where data center deployments have been fast-growing, operators may turn to their IT asset management counterparts in corporate IT and be guided to use incumbent solutions. But traditional ITAD solutions were developed long ago for the corporate environment, not the modern data center. These conventional ITAM solutions, along with the security tools and methods to protect data, simply weren’t cut out for the mass scale and high-capacity storage in today’s data centers.
  • Data center requirements are not broken out separately in the procurement and RFP process. Essentially, companies are putting their ITAD business out to bid for a one-size-fits-all solution.

No matter the reasoning, there’s no avoiding the reality: data center ITAD is a completely different ballgame that needs to be played by its own set of rules. Among other challenges, data security in the data center is more complex, the onsite services and reverse logistics requirements are vastly different, and the value recovery opportunity is much greater. By using a “general” ITAD solution for data center decommissioning, companies are putting at risk sensitive data, return on IT assets, sustainability and data center productivity.

This was the subject of a presentation I gave at the IAITAM 2017 Spring ACE Conferencein Las Vegas titled Data Center ITAD: Different Rules for a Different Ballgame. I’ll now be sharing the details of this presentation through a series of blogs to be released over the next few weeks, as outlined to the right of this page.

ITRenew and Data Center Decommissioning

Let me preface this series with relevant background on ITRenew. Founded and headquartered in Silicon Valley, we had the advantage of witnessing firsthand the early stages of the data center deployment explosion. We worked in collaboration with leading cloud companies to design a solution specifically for data center decommissioning, which we built on the backbone of Teraware, our data erasure software platform. Unlike other ITAD solution providers in our industry, we weren’t married to the conventional processes of ITAD companies we acquired or to the legacy software code of standard data erasure tools. That meant we could start over with a completely fresh perspective, 100% focused on innovating completely new approaches to solving the decommissioning challenges within the most hyperscale, technologically-advanced data centers on the planet. And for years since, we’ve been able to continually enhance our solution from direct engagement with these mass-scale data center customers.

It is based on this real-world experience that I will provide best practice recommendations and take aim at the areas of data center decommissioning that most greatly impact IT asset disposition ROI. I’ll also demonstrate why it’s so critical to use a specialized solution for data center decommissioning, sprinkling in some of the unique ways ITRenew helps our data center customers eliminate data security risk and maximize value recovery as justification.

I hope you will come back to read the entire series. You can subscribe here to be notified by email as each new blog is posted. Of course, we’d love to hear feedback including the challenges you face in data center decommissioning. So, please post comments or contact us at any time. Thank you.