It's well understood that computing devices like
laptops, computers and game systems produce quite a
bit of heat. You can feel it while holding your laptop on your lap, or hear
the fan running as if it's about to explode.
Processors, video cards, and hard drives produce
waste heat, and server and data centers are constantly working to cool their
systems before they overheat. In fact, these centers consumed up to 1.5 percent
of total U.S. energy used in 2007, which is 0.5 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas
emissions. With new computing services such as the cloud coming about in recent
years, the problem is only getting worse. The solution? A new paper from
Microsoft Research has suggested that this heat
be used to warm residential homes.
Servers, also known as Data Furnaces, cannot
produce enough exhaust air at about 104-122 degrees Fahrenheit to regenerate
electricity efficiently, but the
waste heat could be used to heat a home or building. Microsoft's
idea is to use servers for cloud computing operations to heat these homes or
buildings by placing them directly inside. About 40 to 400 CPUs would be
connected to the internet and integrated into the home's heating system just
like any traditional heating system, allowing the Data Furnaces to be
According to the Microsoft Research paper, there
are plenty of benefits associated with this new technique. The most obvious
benefit is the conservation of electricity, as waste heat warms an entire
home/building and alleviates a data
center's need for excessive air conditioning to keep systems
cool. 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. In addition, this system would cut the cost per server. In a
traditional data center, the cost per server is $400 annually. But with the new
system, the estimated cost per Data Furnace will range between $280 and $324.
The only problem would be that residential areas
are less physically secure than data centers, but Microsoft says each Data
Furnace would have a tamper-proof device like a networked sensor. Also, all
data and network traffic would be encrypted while software running on the
servers would be sandboxed and secured from the hosting party.
If such a system was put into place, and it
"piggybacked" on least half of the 6 percent of U.S. energy
consumption for heating alone, the IT industry could "double in size"
without throwing the burden on generation systems and the power grid.