The coronavirus pandemic added rocket fuel to existing technology trends, causing our reliance on the internet to explode. Almost overnight, remote working and e-commerce became essential parts of everyday life, and with reduced commuting and air travel, global carbon dioxide emissions initially fell by 6%.
But our passion for data processing is not without an environmental impact. CO2 emissions have already returned to pre-pandemic levels, and now the huge added energy demand from our increasingly digitized economy is further exacerbating climate change challenges.
Apart from renewable energy which will play a vital role in building a more sustainable digital future, businesses in all industries must do more to help minimize their environmental impact, especially IT.
The advancing digital transformation is expanding the need for data centers and IT infrastructure, elevating their role in world economies. However, the manufacture, operation, and disposal of IT equipment all contribute to pollution and carbon emissions, leaving a negative environmental footprint that could threaten our planet’s health.
Historically, the most common method to manage and grow IT hardware has been to keep it in operation for 3-5 years. During this time original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) offer their guarantee and support, and when support stops or new equipment becomes available, as per the business model of the manufacturer, the end-user will rip and replace. This created a linear economy, which is unsustainable for both the environment and IT budgets.
The reality is that hardware can be used for much longer than their indicated end-of-life (EOL) or end-of-service-life (EOSL) date without any technical issues, and now more than ever, this should be the norm.
One of the contributing shifts has been affected by more companies opting to repair their existing hardware with third-party maintenance (TPM), an efficient and cost-effective alternative to OEM support. TPM plays an important role in the wider movement to disrupt the current take-make-waste model and create a circular economy in IT.
As of 2020, ICT was responsible for two percent of global emissions and consumed up to nine percent of the world’s total electricity, driving government legislation and external bodies, like COP26, to react.
Some regulations in the UK have already started to affect real change. Since 1st March 2020, manufacturers are required to design and produce server and storage instruments that fulfil higher energy efficiency standards. The regulations also require OEMs to provide thorough product and assembly information, as well as replacement components, to aid the repair and retrofitting of existing assets.
New regulations included in the 2021 EcoDesign Directive of the European Union go even further to indemnify the lifespan of performant EOSL hardware, by obliging OEMs to issue the latest updates in security and firmware for up to eight years. This regulation covers an estimated 80-90% of all data center storage and server assets, helping to reassure CIOs previously concerned about potential security breaches when using hardware beyond its service life.
Further legislation, including Right to Repair, is also being discussed in other regions, which would make the application of IT more sustainable by giving its users greater rights around equipment repair and therefore more freedom around its use. This will ultimately enable greater flexibility for data center managers in terms of their IT strategies, giving them the ability to integrate greener and more cost-friendly alternatives to manufacturer support and replacement.
By extending the life of existing hardware and leveraging resources, TPM is an important piece of the complex puzzle in the green IT transformation. Its advantage is underscored by the ongoing disruption of the computer chip shortage, which demonstrates the vulnerability of the current linear model to resource shortages in the short-term.
The impact of greater TPM adoption is also environmental. By delaying upgrade at EOL/EOSL, technically sound hardware and the precious metals and aggregates they contain are retained in the system. Further, most of the lifetime greenhouse gas emissions of equipment are produced during manufacture. Opting to repair instead of replacing functioning assets, businesses reduce demand for new equipment, preventing unnecessary consumption, waste and emissions associated with their production.
Data centers partnering with third-party maintenance providers are already on the journey to become climate neutral by 2030, as the EU Commission states they “can and should” and supports a main theme of the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference: to demonstrate that economic and environmental sustainability go hand in hand.
Evernex exemplifies this, with its ability to strike a balance between cutting capital and operational costs and protecting the environment; while also inhibiting unsustainable but widespread practices, such as premature obsolescence, that have no place in a sustainable, circular economy.
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