Amidst all the talk about the energy efficiency of IT equipment, it is often forgotten that much of the energy a machine requires throughout its life is expended not when it is in use but during the initial production process.
Improving the in-use energy efficiency of IT equipment is of course welcome, but some experts are now arguing that with so much energy expended when the machine is manufactured one of the best ways to reduce a firm's energy footprint is to buy fewer new products by ensuring that all existing machines are used for their entire useful life.
This represents a major challenge to the status quo whereby many firms update IT equipment every three years or so. But according to Darren Bland, managing director of second-use hardware broker Powercore International, more firms are realising there are environmental and business benefits in sweating assets for a few years longer and even buying in second hand kit when extra resources are required.
"The rate of replacement for equipment is crazy and many machines that are thrown out could be used for up to six years without any problems," he said. "It makes environmental sense to use a machine for as long as possible and if you do have to upgrade then it should often be put back on the re-use market rather than put in a skip."
Powercore provides refurbished IBM pSeries(RS/6000), iSeries(AS/400) and xSeries (Netfinity), HP Unix, Sun Microsystems and Fujitsu Primepower equipment as well as a range of storage kit to the second user market. The company claims that beyond the environmental gains of not breaking up products that could still be used, its customers are also getting business benefits from buying these older technologies.
"There is an obvious financial advantage," explained Bland. "It varies a lot by product, but you can get hardware that is only a year old and is half the price of the new version."
Beyond this financial benefit, Bland argued, that there are also technical advantages to buying in second use machines. "A lot of customers will turn to the second use market because they are running an old box that is still working perfectly well and they want to set up another box that is the same model for disaster recovery purposes," he explained.
Many high profile firms are also realising that they can break from the cycle of constant upgrades without any real damage to their competitiveness. Bland said several High Street retailers often buy second hand equipment as they know it will fulfill their requirements and cost them much less than cutting edge hardware. However, he admitted they would probably prefer to remain nameless because of the stigma associated with running old systems.
"There is constant vendor pressure to upgrade even when older versions of products are still fine," argued Bland. "When organisations as critical as the Navy and Air Traffic Control are running on hardware that is in some cases 15 years old you can see that equipment remains reliable for far longer than people think."
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