Last October I reported on the launch of the Uptime Institute’s cowboy-themed ‘Server Roundup’ competition to see who could remove most unused servers from their data centre.
Well the winner was announced a couple of days ago and the prize went to AOL. The company apparently decommissioned 9,484 servers, 26% of its total. AOL saved $5.05m from reduced utility costs, maintenance, and licensing costs, and received $1.2m from asset sales and reclamation. ‘Environmental benefits were seen in the reduction of almost 20 tons of carbon emissions’ according to the Uptime Institutes blog.
The AOL numbers bring home just how much unused equipment is sitting in data centres around the world, using power and costing money.
But I expressed my reservations about this competition when it was announced. It primarily focuses on saving power costs, with little apparent reference to what happens to the servers that are no longer wanted. There is, for example, more carbon generated in the manufacture and delivery of an IBM rack-mounted server than there is in its entire lifetime of use, so, as with many products, the longer they are used the better.
In this case emissions are not actually increasing, since the servers are not being replaced, but the environmental impact of the decommissioned equipment would be much less if they were reused elsewhere, rather than, at best, being recycled.
I would like to see much more emphasis put on what happens to these servers, with the Uptime Institute also making the point that simply replacing existing servers with more power efficient alternatives is not an environmentally-friendly strategy.
In the case of AOL’s savings it’s not clear how the 20 tons of carbon emissions were achieved (and over what period). It would be good if the competition took into consideration how the equipment was disposed of together with details of carbon savings. But it doesn’t seem likely – the competition is being rerun this year with the same rules.