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Microsoft Suggests Heating Homes With "Data Furnaces"

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the better-than-methane dept.

Microsoft 209

Some anonymous masochist submitted a story that makes me cringe from inside a heatwave. "With a temperature of around 40-50C (104-122F), the exhaust from a rack of cloud servers could be a very cost-effective way of heating your house, according to researchers from Microsoft and the University of Virginia. Dubbed the 'Data Furnace,' these racks would be hot enough to completely replace the heating and hot water system in a house or office. Instead of building mega data centers, Data Furnaces would be micro data furnaces in residential areas, providing free heating and ultra-low-latency cloud services to nearby web surfers. Microsoft Research thinks that with remote sensor networks, encryption, and other safety measures, lack of physical security won't be an issue."

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Had one of these (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882670)

It was my old gaming rig with a 3Ghz P4 Prescott.

Original Pentium (2)

clonan (64380) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883040)

I remember an article in PC World about the original pentium chips. The author suggested the ideal placement of the chip was on the outside of the case with the writting:

"Place Coffee Here to Keep Warm"

Re:Original Pentium (1)

bemymonkey (1244086) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883380)

Still true with many systems today - especially laptops with high powered graphics. Put your coffee next to the exhaust vent and it'll stay warm much longer :)

Re:Had one of these (1)

i.r.id10t (595143) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883166)

Heh. I used to heat the bedroom by about 10 degrees F extra w/ a dual AMD 1200 rig ...

DUPE... again (2, Informative)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882676)

see that box up top, put in your topic and it spits out how many times you nimrods have duped your own posts

http://tech.slashdot.org/index2.pl?fhfilter=Data+Furnaces+ [slashdot.org]

Re:DUPE... again (5, Funny)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883062)

Having built the shittiest forum interface in all of webdom, did you actually imagine the slashdot staff would subject themselves to such by using it?

Re:DUPE... again (2)

digitalaudiorock (1130835) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883436)

Having built the shittiest forum interface in all of webdom, did you actually imagine the slashdot staff would subject themselves to such by using it?

Boy you're not kidding. It seems as though the /. interface kept changing over time until it was completely and utterly broken...especially in Firefox...and then development ceased...WTF?? I still have scores missing on posts all over the place...I have NO clue as to what logic causes articles on the main page to be collapsed...my own posts will show a score of 2 within the article comments and 1 on my ./ home page...I could go on. Seriously...what are they up to here??

Re:DUPE... again (2)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883556)

There's one thing I can say in favor of /.' forum. At least it's threaded. Unthreaded forums are an abomination.

Re:DUPE... again (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883942)

I'd say it depends on how active the forum is. Threads are nice when there's a flurry of activity, but temporal posting works when there are only a few posts every now and then.

Re:DUPE... again (2)

LMacG (118321) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883202)

It's not the heat, it's the stupidity.

What about during summer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36882678)

Have they invented the Cryo - Arithmetic Engine yet?

Re:What about during summer? (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882720)

I did not expect a reference for that author here.

Excellent choice.

(Alistair Reynolds, for those who aren't familiar)

Re:What about during summer? (1)

clonan (64380) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883074)

Yeah but then if you get mad and kick the thing it will start icing up and continue to freeze the whole continent!

Re:What about during summer? (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883114)

Great author.

Did not get the reference, maybe time to revisit those.

Re:What about during summer? (1)

clonan (64380) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883430)

Absolution Gap is the one you want :)

I've been telling people this about my basement (1)

Wrexs0ul (515885) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882686)

For years. Seriously, who DOESN'T need a couple old Dell 2950's kicking around.

Ignore the excessive power bill, or fist-sized power outlets if you need to go with larger units :)

-Matt

Noise? (1)

zerofoo (262795) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882688)

Do you really want 10 racks of servers with high-speed fans spinning away in your basement?

I've only got a few bits of gear in a small rack in my basement, and I can hear it on a quiet day.

-ted

Re:Noise? (1)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882796)

Indeed.. wasn’t touched on in the article, but I would imagine some kind of serious sound proofing with appropriate baffling on the in and out ducts would be required. I've looked into so-called "sound reducing" enclosures and they cost a small fortune.. and they don't even completely eliminated noise.. just deaden it down to OH&S type levels.

I’d also be concerned with over-heating. Assuming you are relying on ambient air temperature for cooling.

Also things like power redundancy and network redundancy would be of concern (though I suspect this system would be setup such that a single (or multiple) "data furnace" could fail with no impact).

Re:Noise? (2)

ZackSchil (560462) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882806)

Well, they're no louder than an oil furnace at least. I wouldn't mind.

Here's the real problem: do you want them spewing heat in the middle of the summer?

Re:Noise? (1)

headLITE (171240) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883212)

You still need hot water in the summer. My current electric heater can't do folding@home while heating up my water so they may be on to something there.

Re:Noise? (1)

lazybeam (162300) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883676)

I have solar hot water, free from the sun. Even now (middle of winter) there's enough sun to keep my electric hot water just on minimum bills! It's a 400 litre tank too, so plenty of hot water.

Re:Noise? (1)

GauteL (29207) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882924)

"Do you really want 10 racks of servers with high-speed fans spinning away in your basement?"

No. First of all it'd probably be half a rack per home (i.e. the size of a typical UK boiler) and it would probably use water cooling rather than fans, where the waste water actually provides heat and hot water for your home. It is interesting, but obviously the rack owner would have to pay some of the electricity bill in order to make it worthwhile to the home owner. Otherwise it is just expensive water and heating for the home owner.

Overall this could save energy and thus money by utilising the heat produced by the racks in a more constructive manner than currently. However, as TFA states it would also require an absolutely massive upgrade of domestic networking infrastructure. ADSL certainly would not do. This has so far not been cost effective for service providers, but perhaps coupled with the energy savings it may be worthwhile?

I'd still worry about the lack of physical security.

Re:Noise? (1)

walshy007 (906710) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883580)

Do you really want 10 racks of servers with high-speed fans spinning away in your basement?

Yes, I have a 48u high rack right next to my bed. The noise becomes soothing after a while and it becomes very unnatural to not have it present when power goes out and the like.

This doesn't make any sense (1)

hodet (620484) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883640)

How can this work? Great you get free heating in the winter but your hydro bill just spiked powering all these servers. Then there is the cooling you will need in the summertime when it isn't 20 below outside.

Then as parent points out, what about the noise? There will be extra costs with retrofitting any room you have to accommodate this.

Also the cost of the redundant high speed network connections and the lack of physical security. All this to save a couple of hundred bucks for heating half the year. Does not compute.

Report??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36882704)

Repost???? This was somewhat posted a day or two ago!

What about kids (1)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882708)

I don't trust coop IT students around a rack of server, what about my 4 year old?

Re:What about kids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36882738)

Much like you do with your fucking furnace (at least I hope you do if you have a 4 year old) put up a fucking barrier to keep the kid out.

Re:What about kids (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882804)

Have you considered anger management?

Re:What about kids (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882778)

Your four year old isn't likely to have drunken parties, or sneak behind the rack with his/her significant other for a little "alone time"...

So, I think I'd trust the four year old more.

Re:What about kids (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882802)

One supposes the servers would at least be in a cage.

Re:What about kids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883022)

or at least the child...

Re:What about kids (1)

dwillden (521345) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882836)

Maybe not drunken parties or the "alone" time, but me thinks you underestimate the destructive power of this fully functional four year old child (and his junior siblings).

Re:What about kids (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882782)

Just don't let him take the ax into the basement.

AC Just aint workin anymore (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36882718)

It's cooler outside then in our house and our electric bill for our AC was $1,000.00 this month. Microsoft said the servers were running too hot and made us install a bigger cooling system as part of the deal for the free heat in the Winter months.

Re:AC Just aint workin anymore (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882980)

You really need to look into an A/C system that can draw in outside air. If the outside temperature is closer to the desired temperature, it should draw in the outside air. Such systems do exist, and if your bill is that high, you'll recoup the costs in just a few months.

    We just got done shutting down an in-house (err, in-office) datacenter. There were 4 5-ton air conditioners, and a dozen racks full of equipment. When we were done, the power bill dropped by about $7,000/mo. The really sad part is, we replaced most of that equipment with one rack in a colo facility, and a couple gaming-style desktops to run VMs that were necessary in the office.

Re:AC Just aint workin anymore (1)

gnapster (1401889) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883292)

Whoosh...

Re:AC Just aint workin anymore (1)

Antony-Kyre (807195) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883386)

Well, maybe this is only feasible for areas where it's "winter" all year round?

Is this only feasible if the servers can be left on 365 days per year? Can they be shut down during the summer as other suggest, while a clone is used in winter-areas?

really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36882740)

And what will be done with this "free heat" during the summer?

Re:really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36882854)

Turn your data furnace off, and see your latency spike as your cloud is now in Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and Chile

Re:really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36882890)

I still take hot showers in the summer. I guess they can just turn off some of the boxes and have some of the load handled by servers where it is still winter. However, I imagine an army of penguins marching in and taking all these servers - for the lulz.

Re:really? (1)

bitingduck (810730) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883596)

Hot Tub

Ideal World (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36882784)

In an ideal world this would be a really good solution - when two tasks that are going to have to happen anyway overlap, we as a society can and should make them into one task. But again, because people are inherently not trustworthy, I can see the logistics of this being really difficult to work out.

Here's a word I hardly ever use (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882788)

"Poppycock"

This reminds me of nothing so much as "Diesel powered typewriter in your future!" or "Flying cars: coming soon!" from Popular Science/Mechanics articles from the 50s. In other words, never gonna happen.

Re:Here's a word I hardly ever use (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883384)

I know. Fucking ridiculous, right? My typewriter only takes 93 octane gasoline or it starts missing vowels like crazy. It would be so awesome if I could run it on diesel.

What about the summer season.. (1, Troll)

QuietLagoon (813062) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882798)

... will I have to add air conditioning to get rid of the heat?

.
Typical Microsoft, providing a half-baked, but nice-sounding for marketing sound-bites, solution.

Re:What about the summer season.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36882908)

So you don't need hot water in the summer?

Re:What about the summer season.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883064)

I do, but not millions of liters of it.

Re:What about the summer season.. (1)

JBMcB (73720) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883210)

A rack generates heat all day long. I use hot water for, maybe, twenty minutes a day. What are you going to do with the rest of that heat?

Re:What about the summer season.. (4, Funny)

pyrr (1170465) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882956)

You will just have to...

...open your Windows.

Re:What about the summer season.. (1)

Cogita (1119237) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883092)

You will just have to...

...open your Windows.

Oww.... That pun was terrible. ;-)

Re:What about the summer season.. (3, Funny)

Vectormatic (1759674) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883096)

you forget steps 2 and 4:

You will just have to...

2) *put on sunglasses*

...open your Windows.

4) YEEEEAAAAAAAH

Re:What about the summer season.. (1)

pyrr (1170465) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883678)

I *almost* did that, but I already felt dirty enough for going for that low-hanging fruit...

Re:What about the summer season.. (1)

faridx82 (760501) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883398)

Fire up vista for maximum warmth!

Re:What about the summer season.. (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883218)

... will I have to add air conditioning to get rid of the heat?

Been there, done that, in the basement its not much of an issue. Takes it from 60 degrees 24x7 up to a more pleasant 70.

The problem you didn't think of was the required dehumidifier. And a working sump pump.

lack of physical security won't be an issue (1)

Benson Arizona (933024) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882848)

"lack of physical security won't be an issue" - room thermostats on the other hand...

Maintenance (2, Insightful)

necro81 (917438) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882868)

And what happens when a drive goes bad at 3 am? I understand these are mostly mirroring content to be closer to the user, so all you'd get is increased latency when the data isn't more closely available, but who is going to want to have some maintenance tech over to their basement a couple times a year to replace a dead hard drive or blade server?

And how do you handle liability? If a pipe bursts and floods the place, who eats the loss for the equipment (or whose insurance company more likely)? What about a break-in?

An alternate approach might be to have a medium-sized data center, where all the hardware is inside a dedicated building and tended to by the usual acolytes, and have the waste heat serve as an input to a heating district of several nearby buildings. Unfortunately, 40-50 C heat is especially low grade from a building systems standpoint, so even this idea may not fly.

Re:Maintenance (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883076)

And what happens when a drive goes bad at 3 am? I understand these are mostly mirroring content to be closer to the user, so all you'd get is increased latency when the data isn't more closely available, but who is going to want to have some maintenance tech over to their basement a couple times a year to replace a dead hard drive or blade server?

I was staying with a friend for a while, who runs a datacenter at home. The "spare" bedroom was the server room. Those 3am emergencies usually involved waking me up to fix it. There's really something to be said for a datacenter, where the resident expert is literally sleeping 10 feet from the servers. And I didn't mind. It was a little loud, but the supplemental A/C was very nice during the summer. :) The house may have been 80 degrees, but the server room was constantly 72. Winters were just as nice. It may be 30 degrees out, but the A/C rarely kicked on, and it was still 72 all winter.

why not put data centers at cable headends? (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883136)

They have
back up power
staff on side / on call
big data links
close to homes not as much as this but still more local than other data centers.

do the same thing with the phone CO's.

Only in autumn and winter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36882880)

Nice idea but not really. In spring and summer I have no need for a heating device in my house...

Lots of power needed (1)

jgreco (1542031) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882882)

We were successfully staying off natural gas until January in Wisconsin by running a rack of servers. The cost in electricity, however, was greater than the cost of natural gas to do heating. We've realized a savings as we've virtualized. In any case, there are other problems ... for example, it isn't clear that a home would have the bandwidth to support a meaningful cloud cluster or the environment to suit, including protected power. Also, a rack of servers can be a very noisy thing, and then there's the question of who does routine maintenance and when.

Re:Lots of power needed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883100)

I'm pretty sure they are suggesting infrastructure providers to implement this in a cooperative manner in sensible locations. They would be running servers anyway (power), and they have bandwidth and mobile technicians anyway. Heat pumps are not silent anyway, and generally have dedicated spaces.

Don't think of things in isolation -- think of them as a system in their environment, and you'll do a lot better.

It could work! (1)

OhHellWithIt (756826) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883172)

The suite I work in has never needed to run the heat. Even in the winter, when it's been 10 F outside, the air conditioning has to kick in every now and again.

There's no security without physical security. (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882894)

Microsoft Research thinks that ... lack of physical security won't be an issue.

I think they've overlooked the way some households run. At my house, there's always someone awake. There's always someone within 100 feet of my computers. And, the private arsenal is stocked better than any datacenter I've seen. Well, it's better than some police stations I've seen. And as for police response, it's 3 minutes. That's not including the two households on the block with law enforcement officers living in them.

I've seen in-office "professional" server rooms, where from 7pm to 8am the only security is a handful of video cameras recording, and a key-locked glass front door. Even datacenters aren't all that secure. I've shown up in the wee hours of the morning, to find the one person on duty sleeping in the security office. In most datacenters, I've found ways to subvert their physical security. Sure, the front door may have biometric scanners and man traps. The back door or freight entrance may have a single key lock, and no one on that side of the building during the off hours. One of those buildings happened to house one of Microsoft's datacenters. :) Tell me about physical security concerns again...

Re:There's no security without physical security. (1)

AndrewNeo (979708) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883102)

I think they mean physical hardware security, not physical location security.

Re:There's no security without physical security. (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883830)

heck i would bet that say an eight pound sledge would have you bypassing the walls directly (yes this would be a very literal brute force attack) in most buildings.

Classic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36882904)

Classic Microsoft thinking.

Call it "Steam Cloud" Computing (1)

magian (1417365) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882918)

Let's make a whole industry around this buzzname!

Good idea for perma-winter climates (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882940)

This would work great in frosty climates that need heating pretty much all the time, but how many people live in those areas?

Re:Good idea for perma-winter climates (1)

danpat (119101) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883262)

Me. It's 6C outside right now and snowing on the hilltops. It's the middle of summer here.

Too much heat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36882968)

I don't know if anyone has looked at the weather in the middle of the country, but we don't need any more heat! :D

Seriously, my office is always a lot warmer than the rest of my house, this is a no brainer.

Old idea (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882996)

This is an old idea, I have heard of power plants that ship off their "cool" steam streams off to near by industry and business to provide heat so now instead of power plant waste heat it is now server waste heat. What I want to know is hosting one of these mini clouds going to generate more revenue for me than the power it costs to run it. If it can't then what is the point since natural gas heating is cheaper than electrical heating, better still would be geothermal heat pump. Come to think of it the upfront costs would probably be similar to a geothermal heat pump but the heat pump you can also use in the summer so you would come out even farther ahead.

re: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883014)

This brings a whole new meaning to co-location.

That's no excuse for inefficiency (1)

cpghost (719344) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883018)

That /Microsoft/ suggests this is kind of ironic, isn't it? But even without the irony, there's no excuse for power-inefficient servers nowadays (no matter what OS they run). Sure, every computer and every piece of electronics will be well below 100% efficiency, energy-wise, but c'mon, are they even trying to inch closer at all? Maybe electricity bills are still too low to justify the R&D needed to get better hardware (like, say, ARM servers)?

Re:That's no excuse for inefficiency (1)

j-beda (85386) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883192)

All electronic do-dads are essentially 100% efficient - as heaters. Other than some sound energy and a bit of electrical energy being carried away by the network connection, conservation of energy tells you that essentially all of the electric energy used by the device ends up as heat energy (where else could it go?). In terms of computational use of that energy, I think people talk about energy use per unit of computation - however it makes no sense to talk about such efficiency in percentages since there is no easily defined "100%" to be a goal.

Re:That's no excuse for inefficiency (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883954)

But for heating efficiency, 100% is not the maximum. Heat pumps can achieve greater than 100% efficiency (i.e. spend 1 W, get 2 W of heat) if the outside temperature isn't too low.

Re:That's no excuse for inefficiency (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883418)

there's no excuse for power-inefficient servers nowadays

Sure there is. Its a capital expense vs an ongoing perhaps off budget expense.

In most situations, power is cheap compared to labor and equipment. Its very easy to get in a penny wise pound foolish situation... Use half the power by spending twice as much on the equipment, and, if still in use, it'll pay for itself in 2111. That raid array is just wasting power keeping all 5 drives powered up, we'll just leave one unplugged all the time till we need it. That tape backup robot uses a lot of electricity, I guess we don't need backups.

"green" marketing is all about paying dollars worth of embedded / manufactured energy, to save pennies per year of energy.

This is before we get into labor costs.. The environmental costs of having a thousand admins maintaining a million Arduino cluster to replace one guy and one amd64 box is much worse than the total power consumed by the big amd64 box, even if the adruinos were magically solar powered or something.

Sounds great.... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883060)

So will they pay for the electrical AND the data pipe to it? I get free heat...
From what I know of Microsoft, IT will cost more than buying a 99.99576% efficient HVAC system.

what about power? and bandwith (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883072)

Most home don't have any thing near what a data center has for power back up much less homes that are wired for running a big rack of systems and a cheap DIY can lead to a big fire.
Also the power grid is not set up for that much power at the home if a full block of homes all have this. There was this block that had so many Christmas lights that they overloaded and blowed up a transformer.

Also storms can take out power / data lines for days and the cable nodes battery can die even if you have power the nodes on the line from your house to the headend can have no power and die after like 8 hours.

Flooding can wipe out a lot of hardware.

the cable nodes can hit there max capacity and slow down the speed also cable upload is not that fast as well.

What's with the comments about homes? (5, Informative)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883110)

Here's what Microsoft said:

data furnaces in residential areas

They didn't say "data furnaces in residential houses". The plan is to build these things and connect houses to them, not build these things directly inside homes. So all these comments about kids running around, insurance, etc are not relevant.

Re:What's with the comments about homes? (1)

FranTaylor (164577) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883718)

Yeah because the homeowners can breach those cooling pipes and nothing bad will happen, really.

Low Latency Cloud Server? (2)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883128)

What? You mean like a normal PC with a hard drive in it? Whats next, the amazing photonelectro stick, push a button and a ray of light springs out from the glass covered end?

Re:Low Latency Cloud Server? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883798)

Your idea of what the Cloud does is sorely lacking...

Cogeneration (1)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883150)

So somebody discovered cogeneration (again). Isn't this the second story of this type on /. in the last week?

Security (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883164)

lack of physical security won't be an issue

Your data might not end up on pirate bay / freenet / i2p, but your copper cables and steel racks WILL end up at the local recycler.

640 Kelvin oughta be hot enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883198)

Bill Gates alledgedly said "640 Kelvin oughta be hot enough for anybody" when asked about this.

So many little furnaces (2)

ALeavitt (636946) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883200)

Data Furnaces would be micro data furnaces in residential areas

And each micro data furnace would be nano data furnaces, which would be even smaller data furnaces still. It's data furnaces all the way down.

This would make sense (1)

Riceballsan (816702) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883240)

In Alaska and canada maybe, anyone who lives somewhere that actually has weather where you heat up in winter and cool off in summer this would appear to be a counterproductive system. Save $100 a month in november-january plus say get reimbursed an additional 100 a month for data services, pay an extra 200 a month on cooling march-october.

Supplement my Electric Bill? (1)

A10Mechanic (1056868) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883258)

If they agreed to supplement and/or pay my electric bill, I'm in!

Dumb Idea (1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883394)

Think of the year around electrical cost to run the servers. It is hardly worth it. If companies are worried about heat, build a damn data center at the poles and use the waste heat as part of the power generation, if possible. You could also harness the wind for power as well. This clearly wouldn't work for desert dwellers like me or indeed much of the United States, because, it gets awfully hot during the summer as recent records are being broken. Your air conditioning bill would go through the roof.

Microsoft Security(tm) (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883432)

Microsoft Research thinks that with remote sensor networks, encryption, and other safety measures, lack of physical security won't be an issue.

Well now I feel much better. Microsoft says that security won't be a problem. What a relief! For a moment there I was worried. Now I can ponder this new definition of "free" coming from Redmond. Is that free as in cracked Windows Activation or free as in after you pay for the installation and the monthly maintenance fee free?

Intermittent Demand (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883506)

An amusing parallel here is that one of the complaints people have have solar and wind power, is that it isn't always on, so your energy supply will need storage to buffer it. It's an intermittent supply. Those things help but it's hard to rely on them.

If we use computers as electric heaters, that sounds like a great idea in the winter, although I would need some bigger problems than I currently have, in order to keep my computers busy enough to heat my home.

(A 45W Athlon II X4 can currently do all the "household chores" and still usually have a load average under 1. (And that's with full disk encryption, even.) I never get around to it, but I ought to be underclocking it or running it with a more conservative power profile (*).)

If I create these new problems so that I need my computers working hard all winter, WTF am I going to do in the summer? Won't I still "need" these new problems solved, but not want to run the heaters to solve them?

We're going to have to pick the right problems, falling into a narrow band of value. They're going to have to be worth something, so that I'll have the motivation to run electric heaters in winter instead of cheaper natural gas. OTOH they're going to have to be worth less than the cost of running my swamp cooler.

What problems could these possibly be?

(*) Maybe that's part of the answer right there. Tune for efficiency in the summer, and say that a little sluggishness ("honey, when is my show going to be finished commercial-flagging?") is the price of summer, and the computer switches over to "performance mode" in the winter.

Done already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883554)

I run BOINC in winter to warm my computer room - what more do you want?

1... 2... (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883606)

1. It needn't be IN your house. You could just build a cluster of houses or apartments near the data center.
2. It needn't run all year long, or if it does it needn't vent into the apartments all year long.

I think this sort of thing is fairly common. I've been to universities and schools that were heated with steam. Heating a bunch of buildings from an efficient energy source is a sensible idea. If you're going to have a data center anyway, it's probably not a bad idea to make use of its excess heat rather than just vent it. Of course, if someone ever invents high-performance computing devices that don't generate all that extra heat, it could change the dynamic of the assumptions under which your house was built.

Residential seems a poor idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883636)

Seems like you'd have much better success putting these in industrial facilities rather than residential areas. Lots of industries need heat sources too (not just building heat: thing heat for factory equipment melting plastics, etc). If you could standardize a rugged chassis system with a standard heat output, you could work out the finances. The server owner pays the factory more than the power draw is worth for housing and powering it, the factory uses the heat output to boost the efficiency of their existing heat solution (e.g. add the heat into an existing boiler furnace) such that it saves them cash on the heating bill.

Been there, done that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883664)

I've been living in one bedroom flats for the last few years and never had to turn my heating system on in two years thanks to my mid-high range gaming rig. (This is England however, there's hardly any temperature variation all year)

wrong solution (2)

Gravis Zero (934156) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883736)

MS is obviously ignoring the real solution to this heat: low power architectures like ARM.

If they could make this heating system a reality, it would ensure the life of x86 which they are deeply invested in as tons of server apps still use native x86 code. They may be able to switch over their own server apps but some other apps might get ported.
Additionally, with people buying new server systems they may decide they are fed up with paying MS, their non-ported server apps, paying for expensive cooling system and paying for high power machines and switch to ARM and Linux because MS isn't ready to switch to ARM.
Sure Microsoft showed off Win 7 ported but there is a good chance efficiency sucks and the kernel is far from ready and likely runs very slow on 1.2GHz, even with symmetric processing.

Microsoft could find them losing a substantial part of their remaining server market share to other OSes, primarily Linux that are ready for ARM and just about any other architecture.

On top of this, their good buddies Intel are completely committed to x86 as they sold off their ARM assets and their attempts to move to their own custom architecture failed miserably. With AMD making strides ahead of Intel Atom in the low power x86 front, making Intel's high heat byproduct a benefit would really give Intel a boost.
If the market switches to ARM, Intel is completely screwed as there are major players like Texas Instruments invested in the ARM architecture (see OMAP 4 and 5).

As many of you know, ARM is currently limited to 1.2GHz chips but since that is going to be kicked up to 2+ GHz in 2012 so that isnt a real excuse anymore. The server market has a good chance of switching to ARM servers if savings in software, power and cooling outweigh the cost of new Linux servers in a short period.

---------------------

for those who said "tl;dr" the short version is Microsoft and Intel are scared of the server market moving to ARM CPUs so they want to lock into x86 if they can by setting up permanent heating systems.

Power efficiency? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883940)

What is this going to do to the grid though? Increased demand for power for less power efficient micro-clouds means more pollution on the back end.

Efficiency = bad (1)

John Zero (3370) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883964)

When heating with an air-conditioner, the efficiency is not too good, but not too bad. 1 kWh electric energy = 5-6 kWh heating energy (equivalent). So there is a ratio of 1:5 to 1:6.

When heating with just electricity, the ratio is 1:1 (1 kWh electic energy = 1 kWh heat equivalent).

In the end: nice joke from Microsoft.

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