Reduction of Data Center Hardware Refresh by Microsoft – What’s Next? | Knowledge of the data center

Microsoft will extend the life of its server and networking equipment assets in its cloud infrastructure from four to six years, chief financial officer Amy Hood announced during the company’s fourth quarter fiscal 2022 earnings call. society.

According to Hood, investments in software, increased efficiency in server and network equipment operations, and advances in technology have allowed Microsoft to add two more years to the useful life of its servers. As a result, the company estimates $1.1 billion in savings in the first quarter of fiscal 2023 and a total of $3.7 billion for the full fiscal year.

Microsoft is following in the footsteps of Google and Amazon, which recently announced lifespan extensions to their cloud servers. Amazon said its servers will have a useful life of five years while its networking equipment will be six years old. Similarly, Google revealed that in 2021 it adjusted the useful life of its servers from three to four years and some of its networking equipment from three to five years, resulting in a $2 billion increase in profit. net and a $2.6 billion reduction in amortization expense. .

Increased useful life of data center hardware

Increasing the useful life of servers is becoming the norm not only for cloud service providers (cloud SPs) but also for data center operators. Omdia’s annual surveys of North American businesses show an upward trend in the average number of years a server has been in use, with results from 2022 indicating that the useful life of a server in businesses is now 5.4 years.

So what’s behind this rise? It’s a combination of factors, according to Vladimir Galabov, head of cloud and data center research practice at Omdia. “The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted enterprise revenue streams and resulted in a significant drop in enterprise IT spending. Companies have delayed server refreshes or opted to migrate workloads to the cloud to reduce capital expenditures and increase bottom line,” he wrote in the survey report. Additionally, “strong end-user demand amid a global shortage of semiconductors has forced cloud service providers to review their operational practices.”

The useful life of servers may continue to increase, exceeding five years. “We are seeing an appetite for server usage for six or even seven years in the business if service and support can be arranged,” Galabov wrote. “We expect most end users won’t be using the servers for more than seven years.”

How Server Life Extension Will Affect Data Centers

For data centers, extending the lifespan of servers could reduce complexity. “As a former hyperscale operator, I know firsthand the intense operational impact that lifting and moving hardware has and have always dreaded the added complexity,” said Sean Farney, executive director of strategy and of data center innovation at JLL. “Change is the enemy of availability, so avoiding the complexity of actualization is welcome.”

In terms of security, Farney sees no downside to using the servers for longer. “For life extension to increase exposure, a new, unaddressed vulnerability would need to be revealed in older chipset or server hardware, which is less common than many software vectors,” said he declared.

Extending the life of the server could also reduce costs. “Data centers will find that the sweating of their system assets [for] a few more years is literally not going to be enough, at least in terms of hardware durability,” said Corey Donovan, president of Alta Technologies, an enterprise computing hardware distributor. He recommends focusing on component upgrades to fill the multi-year void on hardware refreshes while also allowing for customer expansion plans.

“SMB server managers, when faced with the high costs of removing and replacing a server rack, often turn to component upgrades to buy another two to three years of capacity,” Donovan said. “Combined with ongoing software optimization and operating system tuning, a CPU and memory upgrade on all systems goes a long way, without blowing up capital expenditures.”

In addition to component upgrades, Galabov wrote that “Dynamic workload allocation, new data management, and backup practices will further reduce the criticality of each server. This will act as a lifespan booster. useful life of the servers in the long term.

It is not only costs that could be saved, but also the time and effort spent on frequent updates. “The planning, staffing and conscious execution of methods and procedures is laborious and extensive. Thousands of man hours are saved here,” Farney said.

Still, Farney adds that the biggest impact will be on sustainability. “Extending the useful life of the server is a great example of sustainable operations, changing operational policies and procedures to reduce the carbon footprint,” he said. “Avoiding hardware refresh significantly reduces the carbon impact across the entire server hardware supply chain, from procurement to the data center raised floor. This new thinking about sustainable operations – continuously improving existing environments, technologies and procedures – is an incredibly efficient and scalable way to have material impact.

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