Cloud Computing Turns Cloud Recycling

Surprise, surprise. The cloud becomes a prize for another industry. The scrap-metal market is now focusing on their next target: cloud computing. As global demand for data storage surges, the quantity of data centers is also growing. Overall enterprise investment into cloud infrastructure has skyrocketed since 2015. Parallel to that growth, the market for data center equipment is expected to increase at a rough rate of 16% this year and the following. 

cloud recycling

Having a short life span of three or so years, cloud servers have a quick turn over rate. The earlier pieces of equipment are most likely passed its expiration date. Since there is constant technological change, there is room for new companies to enter the market. Sims Metal Management and Electronic Recyclers International Inc.(ERI), as examples, are some of America’s largest recyclers. They are creeping into the cloud computing realm in hopes of utilizing out-dated data center equipment. Processors and fans can all be disassembled and resold in another market. It is also expected that the copper, steel, and aluminum that those parts contain, will gain more value over time. 

Sims and ERI are attempting to recycle little amounts of cloud computing materials, hoping that volumes increase in years to come. These efforts were catalyzed by increasing trade barriers and low commodity prices. Recycling data equipment is their attempt to revitalize profits. 

Giants like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google are all running massive networks that are considered “hyperscale”. In 2018, they all increased annual capital spending to $60 billion collectively. Up by 50% from the previous year, these companies are spending to upgrade and expand their data centers. All of that equipment that was no longer in use should be able to be recycled for scraps.  However, there stands the wearies of security. Are there any sensitive data left on those unwanted machines? To mitigate security risks, some enterprises require that the servers are broken down on-site, while also being watched and recorded by employees. Taking it to the next level, other companies hire armed guards to escort the dated servers to the scrapyards. There is also a matter of what should be saved? Disagreement within the industry is what should and can be salvaged. Some demands that all equipment be scrapped and melted down entirely, while others are okay with saving certain reusable components. 

Google describes its data centers to be like small cities that are filled with drivers, routers, servers and more. Rather than waste viable components and add more to landfills, Google is adamant on recycling and reselling as much as in their ability to do so. 

Chief executive of Sims, Alistair Field, bets that future deals to recycle data centers will sprout up in around 12 months' time and continue to grow. It seems counter-intuitive that with increasing cloud computing there will be more waste since servers would be able to be accessed via one device. But, more cloud computing also means that more data centers will become extinct, resulting in more electronic waste. Although cloud recycling has not reached its peak yet, recyclers are trying to infiltrate the market now in hopes of high returns in the future.