Important Steps in the Data Center Decommissioning

by Jones David

Perhaps dismantling a data center is the one thing that is more difficult than building one, which can be attributed to the level of disruption that the process potentially poses to your business. An excellent example of how complex data decommissioning is the Titan Supercomputer’s dismantling at the Oak Ridge National Lab. It is reported that above forty people took part in this project. It included staff from the ORLN, external subcontractors, and Cray, a supercomputer manufacturing company. 

While your business might not be involved in dismantling a computer as big as the Titan, you might need to decommission your data center infrastructure at one point. It might seem like an ambitious undertaking, but understanding the proper steps should give your IT team a relatively easier time navigating this process. Here are some crucial steps in computer decommissioning.

Step 1: Discovery and Planning

The first step in this project is to identify and engage with all the key stakeholders and decision-makers. Come up with an efficient communication channel for each key decision-maker and stakeholder in your company. It eases them into the project and also updates them on every step. Discovering and planning also informs everyone about their responsibilities within the project.

Under this step, it is crucial first to select a project manager. If you don’t have an in-house project manager with enough or relevant experience in decommissioning a data center, hiring an external project manager is reasonable.

Another vital thing to do in your first step is to develop a budget for your project. In reality, the actual decommissioning project will exceed your initial budget by a substantial margin. However, in-house laborers will do the job at a relatively lower cost than if you hire an external IT disposition firm. When you are budgeting, ensure that you have your company auditor give you a valuation.

While planning for your data center decommissioning, you need to come up with an estimated timetable. Many times, it will be challenging to account for each contingency in this process. The less organized and prepared you are, the more likely it will be for your project to delay. That is why this first step is vital, as it increases the chances of a successful project from the beginning.

The other critical things under this step are developing a detailed work schedule, creating a contact information list for the general team members, and choosing the best discovery tools.

Step 2: Decommission

The second step is the actual decommissioning. Once you have finished discovering and planning, you are then able to move to the next step. The first thing to do here is run tests and simulations for all of your backups. This is essentially important if you live within an environment with various migration scenarios. 

This phase also presents you with an opportunity to assess your recovery plan, and it also helps you ensure that each device is functioning as it should. After running these tests, the next thing is to develop a complete backup before you begin to decommission, which will involve verifying your newly developed backup. It is impossible to be too careful with your organization’s data.

After you have done the above, you can disconnect all your equipment from the network, including removing subnets, firewalls and cutting the power supply. It might help to invest in tin guards for a safer process. Sometimes you might still have storage media that have not been erased yet you don’t intend to reuse or resell them in the future. When this is the case, it is vital to ensure that you degauss them.

The last phase of decommissioning your data center is verifying all your documents, whether you hired a third party or working with your internal team. Ensure that you meticulously document each hardware destruction for accountability. Documenting also involves fulfilling all the necessary security policy requirements. It is also best to have a detailed and comprehensive paper trail in the event of an audit. Moreover, it will act as a model if you undertake a similar project in the future.

Step 3: The disposition

After having all your data decommissioned, the next logical step is disposition. This step involves packaging and moving equipment as well as canceling contracts that are no longer relevant. Ensure that all your hardware is packaged correctly and paletted. It is also best to communicate with finance to ensure all fixed assets, including servers, are removed from the financial records. Also, ensure that every software license is accounted for.

The last part is to ensure that you identify your recycling vendors for recyclable materials. Ensure that your organization follows all the proper ethical channels.

Completely decommissioning your data center is exciting and beneficial for your business. Go through each detail with a fine/tooth comb to avoid missing anything. If your organization doesn’t have the necessary skill set for this project, don’t shy away from hiring an experienced third party.

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