Microsoft uses AI to boost its reuse, recycling of server parts

Get ready to hear the term 'circular' a lot more in reference to data center gear.

servers / server racks [close-up perspective shot]
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Microsoft is bringing artificial intelligence to the task of sorting through millions of servers to determine what can be recycled and where.

The new initiative calls for the building of so-called Circular Centers at Microsoft data centers around the world, where AI algorithms will be used to sort through parts from decommissioned servers or other hardware and figure out which parts can be reused on the campus.

Microsoft says it has more than three million servers and related hardware in its data centers, and that a server's average lifespan is about five years. Plus, Microsoft is expanding globally, so its server numbers should increase.

Circular Centers are all about quickly sorting through the inventory rather than tying up overworked staff. Microsoft plans to increase its reuse of server parts by 90% by 2025. "Using machine learning, we will process servers and hardware that are being decommissioned onsite," wrote Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, in a blog post announcing the initiative. "We'll sort the pieces that can be reused and repurposed by us, our customers, or sold."

Smith notes that today there is no consistent data about the quantity, quality and type of waste, where it is generated, and where it goes. Data about construction and demolition waste, for example, is inconsistent and needs a standardized methodology, better transparency and higher quality.

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