Google - Worldwide
Google’s global partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation is supporting Google to build on existing practices and embed circular economic principles into the fabric of Google’s infrastructure, operations and culture. There is no better example of how Google is implementing circular economy strategy at scale than how the company manages the hardware inside its data centers. This case study reviews the practices that have been implemented through maintenance, refurbishment/remanufacturing, redistribution/secondary market sales and recycling.
These practices combined with Google’s circular approach to optimizing end of life of servers based on Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) principles have resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars per year in cost avoidance. Much of our infrastructure is custom designed, from our own high voltage substations, to the on-site electrical distribution systems, to the proprietary cooling systems - all working in conjunction and optimized to provide the highest performance and lowest total cost of ownership computing infrastructure, saving Google over $1 billion in our operations through energy efficiency alone.
-- MAINTAIN / PROLONG --
Google’s repairs process at the data centers enables longer life expectancy of the servers. As servers fail and fall into repairs, defective parts are replaced by refurbished parts, which enables longer usage of parts. Hard drives/ disks and memory modules (DIMMs) are the most commonly repaired (replaced) components. The repairs program replaces failed components using a mix of new and refurbished parts. In 2015, 75% of components consumed in the spares program were refurbished inventory.
-- REFURBISH / REMANUFACTURE --
Once servers from data centers are decommissioned, they are sent back to the central hub. At the hub servers are dismantled and de-kitted to their usable components (CPU, motherboard, Flash devices, hard disks, memory modules and other components). After quality inspection, components are stored to be reused as refurbished inventory. Google custom builds its own servers for data centers through a program called the Servers Build program. Refurbished parts (mentioned above) are used to build remanufactured servers and are then deployed back into data centers. In Google data centers, there is a mix of the servers running the latest technology platforms and also older platforms. Once components are in inventory, there is no distinction made between refurbished and new inventory, both are considered equivalent.
In 2015, 19% of servers Google deployed were remanufactured machines.The Spares and Repairs program is a process for repairing of servers and components as they fail in the data center. In 2015, 52% of components consumed in Machine Upgrades program were refurbished inventory.
-- REUSE / REDISTRIBUTE --
Google redistributes any excess component inventory as determined by quarterly E&O process internally. After utilizing all internal avenues Google goes through a rigorous process to ensure no proprietary Google technology resides on the components before selling on the secondary market. Google works in close collaboration with selected remarketing partners to look at various market factors for resale. There are three primary components that are resold on the secondary market: memory modules, hard drives and OEM Networking equipment. In 2015, Google resold nearly 2 million units into the secondary market for reuse by other organizations.
-- RECYCLE --
Google maximizes the recycling of all data center material, including the electronic equipment that leaves our data centers. Hard drives and storage tapes that cannot be resold are crushed and then shredded. These crushed materials along with plastics and metals from other electronic waste are then combined and sent to a recycling partner for secure processing and recycling into reusable materials.
This study encompasses machines (servers) and associated components (primary memory modules, hard disks and flash storage devices) in Google data centers and networking related equipment (fiber optics, switches and routers). Google’s supply chain for servers (Product) consists of components that make a server including: CPU, Motherboard, Flash Devices, Hard Disks, Memory Modules and other components. Since Google manages the manufacturing and assembly operations of its custom built servers, Google is the Product Manufacturer in Google’s server supply chain.
Google is practicing the concepts of circular economy in our servers supply chain and is unlocking the value that comes from demonstrating the circular economy at scale. As part of the Google-wide circular economy program we will continue to explore other opportunities throughout data center operations. It is Google’s belief that doing so will yield additional value for business, partners and users.