AOL, Barclays Retire Thousands of Old Servers

AOL and Barclays have “won” the Uptime Institute’s annual Server Roundup by removing the highest number of obsolete servers from their respective data centers. (AOL, for its part, won the contest for the second year in a row.)

AOL decommissioned 8,253 servers in 2012, resulting in gross savings of almost $3 million from reduced utility costs, maintenance and recovery of asset resale/scrap. The financial services firm Barclays removed 5,515 obsolete servers in 2012, saving $3.4 million in annualized savings in power alone, and a further $800,000 in hardware maintenance.

Uptime Institute’s Server Roundup annual contest was introduced in October 2011 to raise awareness about the removal and recycling of “comatose” and obsolete IT equipment as a way to reduce data-center energy use. The idea, of course, is that obsolete servers simply aren’t as efficient as modern hardware, and waste energy and resources as a result.

But the contest doesn’t really factor in other factors that might affect server use, such as downsizing. AOL’s “walled garden” once dominated the Internet, and it’s unclear how many decommissioned servers helped with that particular effort. (Believe it or not, AOL dialup still contributed $230.8 million to AOL in the fourth quarter of 2012—a whopping 38 percent of its revenue.) Last year, AOL decommissioned nearly 10,000 servers and saved over $5 million; the runner-up, NBC Universal, only removed 1,090 machines.

“Lots of companies have been downsizing IT footprints and getting smarter about meeting IT demand, but not all of them are being smart about decommissioning the outdated equipment,” Matt Stansberry, director of content for Uptime, wrote in an email. “A lot of it is still sitting on the raised floor, or idling in a test-dev lab.”

According to industry estimates, around 20 percent of servers in data centers today are obsolete, outdated or otherwise unused. Uptime estimates that decommissioning one rack unit of servers can result in a savings of $500 per year in energy costs, plus an additional $500 in operating system licenses and $1,500 in hardware maintenance costs.

And then there’s the performance aspect: a server that may have cost $100,000 seven years ago, took up half a rack of space and required a couple of kilowatts to run is now absolutely crushed in compute performance by a modern $5,000 blade server, noted Paul Nally, a director at Barclays.

“The purpose of Server Roundup is to highlight what should be a routine activity–removing obsolete hardware from the data center–and moving it to the forefront of the conversation,” Matt Stansberry, director of content and publications at Uptime Institute, wrote in a statement. “We want to inspire participation and healthy competition to improve data center efficiency. Past efforts around data center efficiency have focused on the facilities infrastructure and PUE, and those efforts have hit a plateau. The future of data center efficiency gains will depend on engaging the IT professionals to take bold, new steps.”

TDBank, McKesson and Sun Life Financial also were named as finalists. TDBank removed only 513 servers, but received notice for recycling all of them within a 110-mile radius. McKesson pulled 586, saving $734,000, while Sun Life removed 387 servers, which Uptime estimated at an $8,800 savings per month.

Somewhat ironically, Uptime’s awards were handed out the same day as TSO Logic released a new software solution designed to power down unused hardware. However, TSO said its TSO Power software solution was designed for usable hardware that the data center would eventually need when it returned to peak load.

 

Image: kubais/Shutterstock.com

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