Against the chip shortage and for more sustainability

Refurbished hardware

In a study carried out by Technogroup IT-Service GmbH back in 2020, almost 80 per cent of those surveyed stated that they saw refurbished hardware to be a sensible alternative to new ware in order to cut costs and protect the environment. This approval may well have risen further at many companies in the past few months. Because refurbished hardware is supporting companies to react to two of the largest challenges of our time: the chip shortage, with all its consequences, and the demand for more ecological and economic sustainability.

The chip shortage and the resulting difficulties have been a serious issue in many sectors for almost a year. Although the large semi-conductor manufacturers are diversifying their supply chains and building up new production capacities, this all takes time. During this time there has been no end to the reports from China of Covid-related plant closures. In addition, the war in Ukraine has caused both the warring parties to largely drop out as producers of neon, argon and xenon. These noble gases are required as laser media in order to expose semi-conductor wafers. The precious metal palladium, another resource required to manufacture chips, is mined in the crisis region. And even if chips are produced, there is an increasing shortage of ABF, which is required to insulate circuit substrates.

The reduced supply has made it more difficult for companies to procure new hardware for their data centres. Data-centre operators must continue to expect price rises and longer delivery times. This development is endangering the availability of their systems, particularly because printed circuit boards, resistors and other upstream products are becoming scarcer. Refurbished components can be one solution here, because they are not part of the disrupted supply and production chains. IT hardware is already on the market and available immediately.

Short hardware life cycles damage the environment

Even if overcoming the chip shortage is a challenge, an even more serious and long-term challenge is the aim of reducing CO2 emissions, protecting the environment and conserving resources. All production steps for new equipment and their intermediate products, their transport and later disposal use energy and release CO2. Valuable resources, such as gold, wolfram, tantalum, aluminium and also palladium, as has already been mentioned, are extracted using chemicals and lots of water. Consequently, the manufacturing of IT components also has to be included in a complete corporate sustainability balance.

This aspect becomes even clearer if the entire life cycle of hardware is considered. This is because decommissioned equipment becomes electronic waste, of which about 55 million tonnes is produced worldwide every year. According to the current E-Waste Monitor from the United Nations, only about 17.4 per cent of this waste is properly recycled. The majority of all equipment ends up in landfill or is incinerated. Highly-toxic substances can be washed out in the process or get into the air.

Re-use as an important part of the solution

Extending the life cycle of hardware is an obvious solution to counter the risks of disrupted supply chains and to meet the ecological challenges. What this means for corporate data centres is high-performance servers and storage systems do not have to be new ware. Used and professionally-prepared equipment and components are in a position to replace an entire generation of newly-produced hardware without any detriments. They offer up-to-date performance and functional values and are up to 50 per cent cheaper than comparable new ware.

Using refurbished hardware is a practicable path for companies to absorb the effects of disrupted supply chains and to act sustainably both economically and ecologically in equal measure.

Article in “IT-Mittelstand”

IT-Mittelstand 22.06.2022,



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