Wynne, Astrid; Chenadec, Julie; Andrews, Deborah; Adibi, Naeem; Workum, Arjen; van der Veer, Martijn
Adoption and use of digital technology (which includes smart phones, PC and other computers) has spread extensively and in 2021 60% of the global population are ‘connected’. The data centre industry serves this increased digital demand and is predicted 500% global growth is predicted by 2030. Data centre equipment has a high embodied impact and the rate of data centre server refresh is far lower than the viable lifetime of the equipment. Servers, like most IT hardware, do not degrade over time so their reuse, remanufacture and refurbishment is highly effective compared to machinery with moving parts. Research published in the IEEE Transactions on Sustainable Computing demonstrates that new and refurbished servers perform identically and when correctly configured earlier generations can outperform the new alternative. The slow down of Moore’s Law (doubling of efficiencies every two years) means that it makes sense to extend product lifecycles, remanufacture and incorporate refurbished components. The secondary market for IT hardware for the data centre sector is mature and, together with the manufacturers, it provides an ecosystem that is a viable alternative to reverse logistics. This is all the more useful as reverse engineering the IT supply chain involves two to three tier distribution chain and global transportation routes. Second life products conserve resources; however this market is currently limited by a range of technical and perceptual barriers. This paper describes current and impending challenges to this market, some opportunities and innovative business models that highlight the economic, social and environmental advantages of second life products as a critical part of the developing Circular Economy and as business incentives for this unique sector.