AOL Retires 9,500 Servers in Uptime Roundup

AOL retired and recycled nearly 9,500 servers in less than six months to prevail in a “roundup” designed to highlight the energy savings available through decommissioning older servers.

AOL decommissioned 9,484 servers, representing a 26 percent turnover in the company’s server assets, resulting in estimated total savings of $5.05 million from reduced utility costs, maintenance, and licensing costs, and $1.2 million in cash raised from asset sales and reclamation. The environmental benefits were seen in the reduction of almost 20 tons of carbon emissions.

The Server Roundup Contest was launched last October by The Uptime Institute as a contest to remove and recycle obsolete IT equipment. Participants were required to document the decommissioning of the machines, and provide data on power savings, and photos of the servers.

$500 in Annual Savings Per Server

Decommissioning a single 1U rack server can result in $500 per year in energy savings, an additional $500 in operating system licenses, and $1,500 in hardware maintenance costs, according to Uptime.

“So much of the past several years’ efforts around data center efficiency has focused on the facilities infrastructure and PUE,” said Matt Stansberry, Director of Content and Publications, Uptime Institute. “This contest was specifically designed to engage the IT community to get serious about asset utilization and energy efficiency.”

“AOL has been working on data center energy efficiency for a number of years, and this contest allowed us to pause and quantify the carbon footprint and utility savings of these ongoing efforts,” said Brenda Rian, AOL’s Senior Manager, Environmental Health & Safety.

Documenting Savings From An Everyday Practice

Large Internet companies like AOL routinely decommission large numbers of servers as part of their IT practices. A hardware “refresh” allows users to take advantage or ongoing improvements in server power and energy efficiency, often allowing data center operators to consolidate their IT capacity on a smaller number of servers.

The Uptime Server Roundup provided a specific opportunity to highlight the energy savings possible through decommissioning of aging servers.

“Taking a routine activity that most people never see and moving it to the forefront of the conversation is a great mechanism to inspire not only our team but healthy competition between like minded organizations,” said Saul Mankes, Director, Data Protection & Infrastructure Continuity NBCUniversal, MediaWorks.

NBCUniversal finished second in the contest, as its infrastructure team removed 284 servers, or approximately 7.4 percent of the total enterprise. Only about 3,800 physical servers remain in NBCUniversal’s infrastructure.

“As energy costs continue to rise, rationalizing the portfolio to achieve increased efficiencies has been critical to meeting the growing needs of the business,” said Mankes. “Through intense virtualization efforts and rigid reviews of infrastructure NBCUniversal has been able to retire over 60 tons of recycled hardware. As a result the company has been successful in lowering power consumption, support costs and increasing awareness of these challenges.”

AOL and NBCUniversal will both make presentations about their Roundup projects at the 2012 Uptime Institute Symposium in Santa Clara, Calif. on May 14-17.

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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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  1. If AOL raised money by asset sales and someone else begins using these same outdated servers, how does that create energy savings?

  2. dan

    AOL's mail servers have been down most of the day. When you can get through to tech support, you get estimates on repairs ranging from 10 minutes to several hours, all of which are just fantasy guesses by employees who know AOL will throw them under the bus any day now.

  3. Gone in 2008

    It would be interesting to see the AOL server numbers historic counts. Specifically the explosion that occurred when they decided to go all web around 2002 and later and another explosion when Cahall decided to do Java/MySQL silos for each channel. The inability to grasp the benefits of the shared architecture, which sustained 30,000,000 of AOL users on a couple of hundreds boxes prior to web heads pushing the infrastructure to what they know cost AIOL dearly

  4. All I know is that AOL servers through which I should receive and send mail off my iPhone and my Mac fail and have so for more than a week -- five days past AOL's promise of repair. This cause great tumult in my life, including lost too many hours to count as AOL denied any problem at their end until after working with Apple Techs, I confirmed what I knew to be the case. Further investigation and twitter searched revealed this issues troubled many other AOL users for a week before my access got hindered.