Although we’re more focused on designing and building new data center facilities, sometimes the need arises to decommission a data center. As the federal government has recently discovered, data center sprawl is a real budget leech, and old, inefficient facilities can be re-engineered or decommissioned entirely, replaced with colocation or cloud systems, or consolidated into other data centers with space to accommodate.
No matter the reason for your data center consolidation or decommission, you can minimize the cost of the actual shutdown, and in some cases even recoup some money in the process. There are environmental concerns to disposing of old equipment like batteries, plus the matter of what to do with the building itself. You’ll also have to notify leaseholders, vendors, and carriers.
What to Do with the Building?
Deciding what to do with the data center space or building will help guide the rest of the decommissioning process.
Are you leasing the data center building or do you own outright? If renting, review the lease contract to see what requirements are in place for decommissioning your equipment and the final state of the building or suite.
Data centers are often within a building that includes other business functions—most frequently office space. Once the data center floor has been emptied, raised floors lowered, and any other additions like new walls put in, the white space can be turned into more offices or cubicles.
If the power and cooling specifications meet thresholds for modern cabinet densities, another option is renting out the space to another company. If they are not, the backup generators and other features may still be attractive to other industries, from warehousing to manufacturing.
Decommissioning Support Infrastructure
Support systems like cooling and fire suppression will likely require professional help from outside contractors for removal. Diesel generator equipment, underground storage tanks, and water tanks will have to be removed, unless you hope to sell the space as a powered shell. Some of these items can probably be resold, like CRACs and PDUs, but you might need a specialized seller as well.
Contact your fiber carriers to set a transition to the new facility and to turn off service to the old one. Cancel any contracts for diesel refueling and contact the local power and water providers to set a cutoff date.
Sorting Out Equipment and Asset Inventory
Document a detailed inventory of equipment and assets. Some of your equipment may be rented, and if you can still use it for the remainder of the lease term, it is likely worth holding on to rather than cancelling. Decide which equipment still has a useful life of at least 1-3 years and sell the rest.
You will need a solid plan for asset tracking and disposal of equipment. Some racks, cabling, and other less specialized equipment might end up as scrap. Copper components of power equipment are worth reselling.
When selling storage equipment, you must be sure to safely erase all data. Depending on security and compliance standards involved, this might mean destroying hard drives or magnetic degaussing. For others, a simple reformatting could suffice.
Taxes can come into play when reselling equipment, as can EPA and federal regulation for disposal of dangerous items.
UPS batteries, computer chips, and other items in your inventory must be disposed of ethically and responsibly. This often requires a specialty vendor with standard certifications like e-Stewards, R2 (Responsible Recyling), TAPA, or ISO 9001. These providers will give you certification to prove responsible disposal.