Looking for an effective way to reduce heating costs? Well, researchers at Microsoft and the University of Virginia have proposed a novel solution.
It is called a Data Furnace and the heat is actually generated by the exhaust from a server rack, which often hovers between (104-122F).
Apparently, servers and data centers are responsible of up to 1.5 percent of the total US electricity consumption and the figure is likely to increase in the years to follow - especially with companies like Facebook, Microsoft and Google building multiple cloud computing facilities.
While there are already some (prototype) data centers that use the exhaust heat to warm houses in local towns, Microsoft’s Data Furnaces would offer a more comprehensive solution, especially if the micro data centers were housed in the basements of regular homes and offices.
Although the 104-122F temperature of the exhaust air isn’t enough to efficiently generate electricity, it could channel hot air into a building’s heating system much like a conventional electrical furnace.
Microsoft’s solution definitely has its flaws, though. One of the main problems would be security, as cloud computing centers typically store highly personal information with restricted access to the premises. This concern could theoretically be overcome with sensor networks designed to warn administrators of breaches in residental areas.
But the biggest difficulty is the "last-mile" Internet connection, because what company would want their racks sitting on the end of 10Mbit DSL connections?
Given the ups, downs and obvious drawbacks, is the so-called Data Furnace really a good solution after all?