For hyperscalers, efficient data center decommissioning is a must. Leaders in this market are refreshing their hardware and infrastructures at an accelerated rate in response to increasing data volume, application variety and capacity demands.

One critical challenge associated with these refresh cycles is how to securely decommission disk drives with sensitive data. Hyperscalers need a 100% reliable way to eliminate the possibility of that data surviving the process, which could expose the company to enormous risk. Drive wiping and compliance stages ensure crucial data security. Then, with data security / audit compliance assured, we can focus on more exciting opportunities to unlock massive untapped value beyond the assets’ initial lifecycle – from data centers through the edge and out to IoT devices – like better TCO, broader access and significant advances in sustainability.

Trends driving the decommissioning tidal wave

The digital transformation of global enterprises is massive and is forcing sustained growth in the data center market for two primary reasons:

  1. The global ocean of big data is expected to swell from 33 zettabyes (ZB) in 2018 to 175ZB by 2025 (The Digitization of the World from Edge to Core, IDC, November 2018). Vast amounts of storage are required to keep pace with exponential data growth.
  2. Advanced technologies, including AI, augmented reality (AR) and Internet of Things (IoT) devices, are driving demand for increased compute power. For example, the volume of calculations needed to be a leader in AI tasks—such as language understanding, game playing and common-sense reasoning—has soared an estimated 300,000 times in the last six years (At Tech’s Leading Edge, Worry About A Concentration Of Power, NYTimes, 2019).

The concentration of hardware infrastructure within hyperscale service providers has forced those companies to undergo a massive scale-up, resulting in immense growth in the number of hyperscale data center facilities—and exploding requirements for secure decommissioning. For example, this expansion is projected to result in 46 million servers reaching end of life (EOL) in the world’s data centers between 2019 and 2023 (Forecast: Data Centers, Worldwide, 2016-2023, 2019 update, Gartner, 2019).

The risk: data sanitization

Secure and effective drive-wiping is mission-critical for hyperscale data centers, which process and store sensitive data belonging to billions of people, businesses and governments around the world. Data breaches cause immeasurable damage to brand reputation, as well as potential legal and regulatory penalties and fines. Hyperscalers must ensure assets are fully and securely decommissioned.

Estimated cost of a mega breach in 2019.

The average total cost of a data breach is highest in the United States.

The rising incidence of data breaches and increased data theft risks compound the need for rigorous security measures, including those implemented at the end of the hardware lifecycle. Therefore, stringent data sanitization is fundamental to the decommissioning process.

Repurposing enhances ROI for the whole industry

Rapid growth and increased data security risk are the reasons why hyperscalers must remain focused on efficiency and rigor in the decommissioning process. The mandate to refresh equipment more quickly forces end-of-lifecycle planning to be more strategic and holistic. It is imperative to their growth and financial success for hyperscalers to successfully navigate the tension between high-velocity infrastructure, lifetime value and sustainability.

Many hyperscalers are looking at repurposing hardware that still has enormous utility as a way to unlock potentially millions of dollars in value—via internal redeployment, reuse by primary-market buyers or resale in secondary markets. This mindset is propelling the increasing adoption of circular economy models to replace outdated, linear source-deploy-discard supply chains. To accomplish this goal and capitalize on the financial opportunity, however, hyperscalers must protect sensitive information through decommissioning processes that guarantees the data has been removed AND that there is a secure, fully traceable chain of custody for each and every asset. This chain of custody is what ensures regulatory / audit compliance and gives hyperscalers the confidence to focus on the financial/sustainability opportunity. This process needs to be global, comprehensive, and efficient. It’s a single flow of hardware that is completely traceable and requires a partner who can support all different types of reuse while guaranteeing that secure chain of custody.

With dependable data sanitization and chain of custody in place, hyperscalers can employ a new approach to hardware lifecycle planning and management—from design to decommissioning to redeployment and reuse. Full racks can be reused and redeployed externally, optimizing the value of their assets and the total cost of ownership (TCO) for entire data center operations. Millions of pounds of gear can be kept out of the waste stream. Instead, it can gain new life and value in other companies’ data centers, in edge computing applications and—for the components available for reuse—even the vast new markets for IoT devices.

For an in-depth description of how to transform data center decommissioning risk into ROI, download our Hyperscale Decommissioning Best Practices Report. Coming soon.