Progressive requirements for Servers & Storage systems set by the EU

Driven to reach Sustainability and Circular economy goals, Europe wants to lead the change. The EU Ecodesign Directive is one of the EU tools; aimed at setting mandatory minimum requirements for individual product groups. For new Servers and Storage, ENTR Lot 9, this has now been published and will become effectively in March 2020. Free ICT Europe participated in this process.

Policy changing elements have been added to stimulate Repair/maintenance, reuse/resell and recycling and to increase the life-cycle of systems. These new measures come on top of a barrier for max. energy consumption, which has historically been the primary objective of the Ecodesign Directive.

The EU sets the direction by addressing a few new elements, part of the so called Material Aspects:
• (2020) Manufacturers shall ensure that joining, fastening or sealing techniques do not prevent the disassembly for repair or reuse purposes of the key components.
• (2020) A functionality for secure data deletion shall be made available for the deletion of data contained in all data storage devices of the product.
• (2021) The latest available version of the firmware shall be made available from two years after the placing on the market for a minimum period of eight years after the placing on the market of the last product of a certain product model, free of charge or at a fair, transparent and non-discriminatory cost. The latest available security update to the firmware shall be made available from the time a product model is placed on the market until at least eight years after the placing on the market of the last product of a certain product model, free of charge.
• (2020) As part of free accessible product information; instructions on the disassembly operations, including type of fastenings and tools required. Also Information about some materials used (Cobalt, Neodymium) at component level should be provided as input to recyclers.
• The first review is moved forward: already starting in 2021, a draft ready in March 2022.

A large discussion took place about the energy requirements, as the initial setup focussed solely on Idle state power consumption and would have led that only 25% of the current new systems would comply. The final requirements now involve also the active state power consumption as well.

“We see this legislation as a step in the right direction and are proud that the European Commission made the decision to address new elements in legislation that will give more freedom to end-users and will have a positive effect on the businesses that provide repair, maintenance and ICT resellers.”

A step forward, though room for improvement
A number of missed opportunities can be addresses though. Firstly, the scope of the directive; at first it would include Networking Equipment, next to that the systems are only mainstream: the whole setup is a puzzle, though roughly said Servers up to 4 CPU sockets and Storage up to max capacity of 400 disks. We pledge to extend this at least to apply the material aspects to all. Good news is that this discussion is already planned for the review.

Severe discussion took place about firmware updates. Free ICT sees this primarily as fixes that are required for the system to operate as it should, therefor should be free of charge.

The directive does not include a number of topics that are important for reuse and repair/maintenance: access to full diagnostics, clear rules for license transfer, no statement addressing the import restrictions of Used systems (no open Circular Economy), maintenance reinstatement fees, spare parts availability in a timely manner, license programs and a compatibility grid to stimulate upgrading. Still work to do for the review!
Next to Servers & Storage, the new Ecodesign package will improve five other products: lighting, fridges, TV screens, dishwashers and washing machines.

“An interesting development that also can be seen here is that Resource Efficiency is becoming probably the most important element. How are products designed, made repairable and upgradeable to last longer will surpass energy consumption?”

What is next for Ecodesign?
The Lot 3, PC/Laptop/Tablet review will be (re-)started. A product group for Smartphones is planned; a strong call has been made by parliament to start with this. Next to Free ICT Europe, also several organisation and countries asked for a product group for Networking Equipment.

When you are interested in the work done by FIE, want to join the alliance or stay up to date, please visit our website (to be renewed soon).