How Do You Decommission a Data Center?
“Decommissioning” refers to removing something from service, and in this case of data center decommissioning, refers to the removal of IT assets and equipment from a data center.
IT equipment may be removed from a data center for numerous reasons, but typically it involves two main reasons:
1. Upgrade of existing equipment
In this case, old IT equipment (i.e. servers) is removed to be replaced by newer ones. This is a frequent activity in many organizations but still requires careful planning and execution.
2. Data center shutdown
Another common case when decommissioning is required is when a data center is going to be shut down.
Shutting down a data center can be quite a complex process involving many different systems and IT equipment. Depending on your location, there may also be local, state, and federal regulations that must be followed, and in many cases, will require the assistance of certified professionals.
How Do You Decommission IT Equipment?
A crucial consideration when planning to decommission IT equipment is that carelessly decommissioning your IT equipment may compromise the data stored within the IT equipment, which is especially true if you are decommissioning storage devices.
Depending on your location, there may also be potential legal ramifications if you perform negligent decommissioning of IT equipment.
There are five key considerations when decommissioning IT equipment:
1. Perform critical backups of your data: this is especially important if you plan to virtually or physically destroy the IT asset. It’s crucial to properly back up and store your data to prevent the loss of critical information. For legal purposes, a backup may also serve as proof of what data was on the machine that was disposed of.
2. Keep an audit trail: it’s crucial to establish a record that centralizes the information on decommissioning IT assets that contain the list of all decommissioned equipment, the process performed during the decommissioning process, the decommissioned date, and so on.
3. Authentication management: managing users and controlling their access to the data center’s network. This phase is especially about removing olf user IDs from your system so they can no longer access your network.
4. Compliance management: depending on your industry, you may be required to abide by a certain set of industry regulations when decommissioning IT assets, such as NIST, PCI DSS, HIPAA, FERPA, and FISMA. In most cases, these regulations will require you to accurately record every IT asset from purchase to data eradication to disposal/destruction.
What Is a Data Center Decommission Plan?
The reality of managing a data center is that you’ll always need to deal with limited operating space, and so decommissioning will always be an important part of data center management.
A data center owner with a strong data center decommissioning program can maximize the return value of the IT assets used in the data center by:
1. Ensuring the right course of action is taken with each decommissioned IT asset (disposal, recycling, re-utilization, sale, etc.)
2. Ensuring all retired/replaced equipment is properly removed to give space to new assets
3. Ensure secure, responsible, and environmentally-friendly disposition of each IT asset
Before decommissioning is executed, a data center decommissioning plan should be developed that includes the removal, sale, and disposal of all equipment in the data center.
Decommissioning a data center without a comprehensive plan is close to impossible, and a comprehensive plan that is tailored to the needs of the data center will ensure a smooth transition and execution of the project.
The basic idea of the decommissioning plan is to determine the resale value of each retired IT asset in the data center: assets with high resale value can be sold, while assets with low resale value and expendables such as ductwork and cables are often recycled. When possible (i.e. when the IT equipment is still relatively new and/or in a good condition), then the asset may be repurposed.
What Are the Phases of Data Center Decommissioning?
While the actual process may vary depending on various factors, and each entity may establish its own process, here are the typical phases of a data center decommissioning purpose:
For upgrading old IT equipment
1. Establishing migration plan: data from old IT equipment must be migrated to the replacement equipment. All stakeholders must be notified.
2. Perform migration: all activities are performed in accordance with the migration plan established in the previous phase. Certificates of migration are often published for compliance purposes.
3. Establish decommission plan: ensuring decommissioning of the older IT equipment is executed while preserving critical data. For IT assets that can’t be reused, a plan for hardware reclamation or disposal is created.
4. Decommissioning: execution of the decommission plan after it has been approved, decommission steps are completed in accordance with the approved plan.
5. Evaluation and post-decommission review: reviews timelines for completion for each step.
For shutting down a data center
Shutting down a data center may require you to follow state, federal, and local regulations which may differ for different pieces of IT equipment. Here are the phases you may need to follow to ensure compliance:
1. Create equipment list: list different types of equipment separately to make evaluations easier
2. Establish and migrate: develop a migration plan. Migrate important data to target systems (i.e. backup storage tape)
3. Power generator removal: establish a removal plan for power generators and related equipment, including emergency generators.
4. HVAC system removal: establish a removal plan for HVAC systems including cooling units, external chillers, and their associated systems. Refer back to the equipment list.
5. Server removal: create a removal plan for servers
6. Decommissioning: complete tasks from the decommissioning plan according to the timeline
7. Evaluation and review: includes information on tasks completed for each IT asset.
How Long do Data Centers Last?
A data center building could last around 15 to 20 years, much shorter than typical buildings with a 75 to 100-year life span.
The paneling and steel frame could last longer, up to 60 years, but the IT assets within the data center may need to be updated every three to four years. While the building itself could last quite long, when the mechanical and electrical hardware is already out of date, the only sensible thing is to decommission the data center.