In May, I had the privilege of representing Active Power on a data center efficiency panel sponsored by CleanTX, the cluster development organization for clean technology in central Texas.

The topic of the panel was “Clean Cloud – The Business Case for Green Data Centers.”  On the panel with me were representatives from National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Dell, RES Americas, Sunpower, CLEAResult and Green Revolution Cooling. Together, we represented a wide spectrum of viewpoints all focused on the myriad of ways that data centers can be made more energy efficient.

The buzzword of the evening was “dematerialization” —  a variation of the old Dilbert trope to “work smarter, not harder.”   

Several panelists urged data center operators to rethink conventional requirements given recent advances in data center technologies and services and consider supporting their IT environments with less power and cooling equipment. After all, what’s the point of wringing out small gains through increasingly clever hardware arrangements just to meet yesterday’s requirements? Instead, operators should ask themselves these questions:

In this era of server virtualization and cloud backup, does every part of my data center need 2N redundancy? Does *any* part of it really need that much backup capability?

Do I really need 15 minutes of UPS power, or can I get away with 5 minutes – or even much, much less?  Do I need to construct a large data center building?  What if I used a prefabricated modular approach?  What are the tradeoffs compared to a conventional build?

If this panel is any indication, the drive to dematerialize, to eliminate unnecessary hardware and to leverage advances in modern data center design and technology will be a key trend in the mission critical industry for years to come.