This system could cut the cost per server, reduce network latency and conserve energy

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 "micro-datacenters."

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.

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov

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