Feeds

Microsoft boffins propose cloudy home furnaces

Heat your digs with a basement data center

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

A team of Microsoft and academic researchers has come up with a proposal for using cloud computing not as an energy drain, but as a source of country-wide energy savings by turning cloudy servers into home and office furnaces.

"In this paper, we argue that servers can be sent to homes and office buildings and used as a primary heat source," write Microsoft and University of Viginia boffins in a paper entitled "The Data Furnace: Heating Up with Cloud Computing".

"We call this approach the Data Furnace or DF," write Jie Liu, Michel Goraczko, Sean James, and Christian Belady of Microsoft Research, joined by Jiakang Lu and Kamin Whitehouse of UVa's Computer Science Department.

Their idea is simplicity itself, if unwieldy and sketchy about bulletproof security precautions. The central premise: "Cloud computing is hot, literally," they write. How about not merely wasting that heat through expensive data-center cooling systems, but instead putting it to work heating the aforementioned homes and office building?

"From the home owner's perspective," they propose, "a DF is equivalent to a typical heating system: a metal cabinet is shipped to the home and added to the ductwork or hot water pipes."

Voilà! A number-crunching home furnace, with the excess heat keeping the residents toasty in cold weather, and the crunched numbers wafting out over the cloud to whatever service provider, well, provided the service.

Dry your socks with a Dell

The paper suggests that server "exhaust" – which it pegs as being typically around 40-50°C (104-122°F) – isn't hot enough to be used to directly generate electricity, but is "perfect" for such uses as home and office space heating, clothes dryers, water heaters, and – somewhat puzzlingly – "agriculture".

"We propose to replace electric resistive heating elements with silicon heating elements," is the key to their vision, "thereby reducing societal energy footprint by using electricity for heating to also perform computation."

The paper cites recent advances in cloud computing as enabling the distribution and management of such dispersed servers, and notes that "from a manageability and physical security point of view," the easiest places to begin to implement their idea would be in office buildings and apartment complexes, using existing broadband links.

Into those locations they would place "a mid-sized data center (e.g. hundreds of killowatts)." Such an installation, they believe, could be easily secured, could support the hiring of a data center operator, and could "leverage the current trend toward sealed server containers that are replaced as a unit to save repair/replacement costs."

The paper runs the numbers on DFs placed in single-family homes in five different US climate zones, using different cloudy throughput requirements and different broadband connections from low-cost 12Mbps-down/2Mbps-up cable to T3 and FiOS. Each scenario has its advantages and disadvantages, but overall the researchers contend that their idea is doable.

Speaking of disadvantages, they do recognize one glaring one: hot days. When the outside temperature is greater than 35°C (95°F) in their model, "the server may have to be shut down for thermo protection since we do not expect cooling the furnace."

Considering this summer's oh-so-toasty US heatwave, it would appear that their highly distributed cloud would have experienced quite a bit of downtime over the past few weeks.

It should also be noted that Microsoft Research is located in cool, grey Redmond, Washington. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Azure TITSUP caused by INFINITE LOOP
Fat fingered geo-block kept Aussies in the dark
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Yahoo! blames! MONSTER! email! OUTAGE! on! CUT! CABLE! bungle!
Weekend woe for BT as telco struggles to restore service
You think the CLOUD's insecure? It's BETTER than UK.GOV's DATA CENTRES
We don't even know where some of them ARE – Maude
DEATH by COMMENTS: WordPress XSS vuln is BIGGEST for YEARS
Trio of XSS turns attackers into admins
Cloud unicorns are extinct so DiData cloud mess was YOUR fault
Applications need to be built to handle TITSUP incidents
BOFH: WHERE did this 'fax-enabled' printer UPGRADE come from?
Don't worry about that cable, it's part of the config
Astro-boffins start opening universe simulation data
Got a supercomputer? Want to simulate a universe? Here you go
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Getting ahead of the compliance curve
Learn about new services that make it easy to discover and manage certificates across the enterprise and how to get ahead of the compliance curve.