Data Furnaces as a Heat Alternative

And other ways the Cloud will save the world…

I told you the Private Cloud is the future.  The Bossman explained how a hybrid cloud model is a prudent start to moving your business to the Cloud.  And now Microsoft research is supposing that the Cloud can save the world!

Let me take a breath and soften that opening a bit.  By ‘save the world’ I, of course, mean that it will offer a clever alternative for indoor heating.

Yes, the future gets even more interesting with an offer of cheap heating solutions on the table.

It’s an interesting concept.  But a bit complex.  Personally, I like things to be explained to me in simple terms – most people do.  I usually Bing concerns with “explain this to me like I’m a five year old” (I’m trying to make Bing happen, Microsoft!  …It’s really hard!)  And once I understand the concept on a modest level, I can see the big picture more clearly.

Perhaps that’s why I enjoy this exchange about budget surplus on NBC’s The Office so much:

Michael: Why don't you explain this to me like I'm five?

Oscar: Your mommy and daddy give you ten dollars to open up a lemonade
stand. So you go out and you buy cups and you buy lemons and you buy
sugar. And now you find out that it only costs you nine dollars.

Michael: Ho-oh!

Oscar: So you have an extra dollar.

Michael: Yeah.

Oscar: So you can give that dollar back to mommy and daddy, but guess what?
Next summer...

Michael: I'll be six.

The “Digital Software and the Cloud Report” from market research firm NPD says only 22 percent of U.S. consumers know what “cloud computing” is.  And I really don’t think that I need to explain the Cloud in simple terms for everyone here, but just in case I hit my head this weekend and have no memory, I can at least use this to bring me back to speed.

(Also, Future Peter:  I forgot to set the coffee timer for when you wake up. Please don’t be mad…)

The Cloud Defined:

The Cloud.  It’s a bunch of servers in a data center.  Servers backing up servers backing up servers.’s Data Center is cleverly hidden somewhere in Downtown St. Louis.  I imagine it’s kind of like the Bat Cave where you don’t see it till you’re right up on it – and your passenger is like omigosh cause they think you’re about to slam into a wall, but then you’re in the cave.  But no passengers are allowed in the Data Center.  Unless it’s Batman.  …What were we talking about?

The Cloud.  We’re all already using it.  I caught you using it right now.  Cruisin’ my blogosphere.  Gotcha.  Cause anytime you get on your email, or your bank’s website, or to build an epic radio station on Pandora – you’re in the Cloud, baby!  Go ahead and upload or download something online.  Bam.  You “cloudin’” kid!  And the second you change that status on Facebook, you’re so high in the clouds that you can see the Great Wall of China.  Flying in a plane right now?  Different cloud…

So most online endeavors are in the Cloud, and the Cloud is a gaggle of servers located in a Data Center, and since servers get hot, the Data Center is releasing exhaust air that’s around 102 – 104°F.  So why not repurpose these servers to heat up some houses?

Enter the Data Furnace

Microsoft Research presented this idea:  Break big data centers up into micro data centers that can be used as a primary heat source for residential and even commercial properties.  By aggressively going green, the resulting energy efficiency will produce lower operational costs and a better quality of service with closer proximity to the consumer thereby meeting and exceeding the social responsibilities of the IT industry.  Let’s see a five year old understand that!

I’ll leave you to read the research for full details, but I’ll knock out some pros and cons for you.

Kevin Smith

PROS:    I mentioned the lowered costs, possible quality increase and social responsibility highlights.  Microsoft supposes that by sharing the energy usage of home heating, the IT industry can “double in size without increasing its carbon footprint.”  Server reuse will be more prominent.  Data Furnaces can be managed remotely to eliminate the need for a guy in a Star Wars shirt knocking on your door during dinner to reboot the rack in your basement.  And of course, cheaper heat.

CONS:   Is it cheaper heat?  For who?  The article is vague about who will find the greatest benefit from this idea.  A homeowner sharing an electrical bill with a Corporation’s micro data center is going to be very, very sad.  And what about in hot summers?  Not as fun to have server exhaust when its 90°F outside.  Assuming all the costs are handled for the homeowner and the hot weather issue is sorted, there’s still one glaring problem with setting up data centers in homes, offices, or apartments:  Security.  I’m pretty sure people would be less likely to set up a Private SharePoint Cloud if they knew their servers were in my basement.  (Not that I go down there… it’s terrifying.  But you get my point.)

Looks like a few things need to get ironed out before we can call this idea the future.  Until then, I’ll continue to use my old laptop as a “lap warmer” in the colder months.

What do you think about Microsoft’s proposal?

2011-08-23T08:27:55+00:00 August 23rd, 2011|

One Comment

  1. Penelope August 25, 2011 at 1:22 am - Reply

    I work for an online website and attend college, meaning I am in the thick of the data cloud! The amount of heat energy I am creating just by posting on this blog astounds me! I think that this proposal is a very good idea and I would love it if we could reduce our carbon footprint in any way, but there is a point with the hot weather problem. No one wants a hot house on a hot summer day. Like you said, if they can find a way to get over that bump then I’m all for it! Very cool!

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