The Lighter Side Of The Cloud – Saving Space
The Lighter Side Of The Cloud –  Size Matters
The Lighter Side Of The Cloud – Drone Removal Services

Harnessing Data Center Heat to Warm Houses

Harnessing Data Center Heat to Warm Houses

Cloud computing and energy consumption have a tumultuous relationship. While proponents of cloud computing believe that it not only saves energy (See: How Green Is Cloud Computing?) but also reduces expenses (See: Saving Money on Energy by Going on the Cloud ), opponents say that the technology merely replaces energy expenditure at client sites with economically-unfriendly data centers (See: Environmental Challenges to Cloud Computing). Now, Microsoft has come up with a proposal that can possibly bridge this difference of opinion.

Anybody who has owned a laptop is no stranger to the heat produced by computers. In fact, one of prime unique selling propositions of premium laptops is their ability to function producing less heat and with more effective cooling, thereby making work on long flights less uncomfortable. Replace laptops with servers, and it is easy to deduce that data centers consume a lot of energy, and as a byproduct of their operations, produce a lot of heat. In fact, more energy is used for cooling purposes than for actual storage and processing of data. To give you a perspective, data centers consumed up to 1.5% of total US energy used in 2007, which is 0.5% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Considering that cloud computing has grown considerably since then, these figures are definitely higher today.

Now, Microsoft Research, in collaboration with Virginia University, has published a paper titled “The Data Furnace: Heating Up with Cloud Computing”, has proposed an idea that may allow the constructive use of the tremendous heat generated by data centers. Using the term “Data Furnaces” for cloud computing servers, the paper proposes using them to heat homes and buildings. In fact, Microsoft believes that such Data Furnaces can actually be sold to homeowners and businesses for heating purposes.

Besides the obvious benefit of earning money through Data Furnace sales, a cloud computing company will benefit from not having to spend on air conditioning. Also, this setup would offer lower network latency because computation and storage systems can be placed closer to highly populated areas that will use them, thereby improving the company’s services. For the homeowner or business housing the Data Furnace, electricity costs would be lesser as there would be no heating bills. And of course, the environment benefits through lower fuel consumption and lesser heat released into the atmosphere.

Jie Liu, Michel Goraczko, Sean James, Christian Belady of Microsoft, and Jiakang Lu, Kamin Whitehouse of the University of Virginia are the researchers who wrote the paper. They propose several different methods to commercialize this idea. One is larger systems with T1 lines that work primarily during the heating season and built with less efficient, recycled servers. Another is the use of small units that can use existing broadband connections to transfer data.

Of course, this throws up the obvious question of data security. As I have mentioned time and time again, security is the prime hurdle in wider adoption of cloud computing. Therefore, people who distrust their data on distant servers will definitely not be happy about their data being on residential property. Secondly, the issue of dependability will also have to be addressed. Data centers have failsafe systems that ensure that servers are always up and running; is it possible to ensure such redundancy in Data Furnaces as proposed in the paper?

While questions remain, the idea does seem to have potential. It is certainly useful that these researchers have put figures to an idea that may well have struck many a laptop-toting businessman working during long flights. With cloud computing set to expand over the next few years, this is an idea definitely worth exploring.

By Sourya Biswas

sourya

Sourya Biswas is a former risk analyst who has worked with several financial organizations of international repute, besides being a freelance journalist with several articles published online. After 6 years of work, he has decided to pursue further studies at the University of Notre Dame, where he has completed his MBA. He holds a Bachelors in Engineering from the Indian Institute of Information Technology. He is also a member of high-IQ organizations Mensa and Triple Nine Society and has been a prolific writer to CloudTweaks over the years... http://www.cloudtweaks.com/author/sourya/

4 Responses to Harnessing Data Center Heat to Warm Houses

  1. “Now, Microsoft Research, in collaboration with Virginia University, has published a paper titled “The Data Furnace: Heating Up with Cloud Computing”, has proposed an idea that may allow the constructive use of the tremendous heat generated by data centers. ”

    In Finland there already are a couple of data centers that are doing this in practice. There was a press release about already in last fall: http://www.helen.fi/tiedotteet/tiedotteet.aspx?id=306&lang=en . The Nordic IT services company Tieto also uses same kind of technology in their latest data center in Finland, and they were recently awarded for this by the Uptime Institute: http://www.tieto.com/archive/news/2011/tieto-wins-international-green-enterprise-it-award

  2. I have actually been doing this for the past 3 winters at my Utah home.  I have a small data center in my basement, which I created from the ground up.  It is fully redundant in all senses: Three, bonded broadband connections (BGP), UPS systems and unattended power generator for blackouts, redundant gateways and routers and and offsite redundant rack at my office in Japan, with a backup server at my Japan home. Anyway, I have been wondering what to do with the heat produced by the servers in the summer and whether it would be possible to generate electricity from it.  

  3. I don’t believe the heat generated is sufficient to generate electricity. However, you can use it for heating. Of course, this depends whether you even need heating in the first place.

  4. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I agree: the Finns probably came up with the idea before Microsoft. But in order to make this commercially viable, perhaps a more in-depth exploration is needed. This study will help achieve that. Also, you may notice that Microsoft proposes to place data furnaces in individual houses; the Finnish idea is to distribute the heat produced in a date center to off-location houses.

Popular Archives

Cloud Migration – 10 ‘Do it Right’ Tips

Cloud Migration – 10 ‘Do it Right’ Tips

Cloud Migration – 10 ‘Do it Right’ Tips Businesses continue to adopt the cloud at break neck speed. Inherent benefits like lower operational costs, no infrastructure overheads, and quick access to better technology make cloud a very attractive proposition for businesses, especially start-ups and SMEs. However moving from legacy to the cloud environment has its…

The Cloud Above Our Home

The Cloud Above Our Home

Our Home – Moving All Things Into The Cloud The promise of a smart home had excited the imagination of the movie makers long ago. If you have seen any TV shows in the nineties or before, the interpretation presented itself to us as a computerized personal assistant or a robot housekeeper. It was smart,…

Cloud Infographic: Corporate IT Security Stats

Cloud Infographic: Corporate IT Security Stats

Cloud Infographic: Corporate IT Security Stats Each week on CloudTweaks we provide a few shoutouts to companies who provide engaging and interesting infographics that reflect our readers interests.  In this case, we have an excellent infographic provided by the team at arellia.com which takes a closer look at cyber-security and some of the biggest malware threats…

The Industries That The Cloud Will Change The Most

The Industries That The Cloud Will Change The Most

The Industries That The Cloud Will Change The Most Cloud computing is rapidly revolutionizing the way we do business. Instead of being a blurry buzzword, it has become a facet of everyday life. Most people may not quite understand how the cloud works, but electricity is quite difficult to fathom as well. Anyway, regardless of…

5 Considerations You Need To Review Before Investing In Data Analytics

5 Considerations You Need To Review Before Investing In Data Analytics

Review Before Investing In Data Analytics Big data, when handled properly, can lead to big change. Companies in a wide variety of industries are partnering with data analytics companies to increase operational efficiency and make evidence-based business decisions. From Kraft Foods using business intelligence (BI) to cut customer satisfaction analysis time in half, to a…

Recent

Cloud Security Hottest Issue At RSA

Cloud Security Hottest Issue At RSA

Cloud Security Hottest Issue The integral integration of cyber security and cloud technology seemed to be the hottest issue at the busy RSA 2015 Conference in San Francisco. Interested parties packed security and cloud service booths for the duration of the conference. Several prominent publications covered the increased importance of securing their private information that’s…

Imperfect Security: The RSA Conference And The Illusion Of Safety

Imperfect Security: The RSA Conference And The Illusion Of Safety

The RSA Conference And The Illusion Of Safety This year’s 2015 RSA Conference is taking place from April 20th to 24th, in San Francisco, California. Here, security leaders from across the vast expanse of tech, politics, and more will gather to discuss the past, present, and future of security. From application security to technology infrastructure,…

The Lighter Side Of The Cloud – Day 5

The Lighter Side Of The Cloud – Day 5

By David Fletcher Are you looking to supercharge your Newsletter, Powerpoint presentation, Social media campaign or Website? Our universally recognized tech related comics can help you. Contact us for information on our commercial licensing rates. About Latest Posts souryaSourya Biswas is a former risk analyst who has worked with several financial organizations of international repute,…

Contact Us

Sending

Technology Sponsors

hp Logo CityCloud-PoweredByOpenstack-Bluesquare_logo_100x100-01
cisco_logo_100x100 vmware citrix100
Site 24x7 200px-KPMG

Established in 2009, CloudTweaks is recognized as one of the leading influencers in cloud computing, big data and internet of things (IoT) information. Our goal is to continue to build our growing information portal, by providing the best in-depth articles, interviews, event listings, whitepapers, infographics and much more.

CloudTweaks Comic Library

Advertising