back to article Dutch companies try warming homes with cloud servers

Dutch companies Nerdalize and Eneco, the former a startup, the latter an energy company, have started a trial of cloud servers as home heaters. The idea is that by placing servers in homes, where a cheap source of heat is a good thing, you don't need to build data centres, where heat is a bad thing. In exchange for hosting a …

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Use the same electricity twice.

In exchange for hosting a leased server, households get heat for rather less than would otherwise be the case.

And hopefully offer a free gigabit drop as well. *grin*

Anyway, this is all too obvious. Where I live in a northern clime in a not-well-winterized century old building, I need to supplement my heating with electric. So, I have a half dozen computers on all the time. This is not a luxury, but just an easy way to use the electricity twice - no extra cost.

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Re: Use the same electricity twice.

The one thing that is not mentioned, what happens when the days get warmer and you don't need the heat?

Also, who pays for the electricity to run the servers?

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Re: Use the same electricity twice.

One place I lived had electrical heating only; the central heating was b0rked and as the place was to be torn down, getting it fixed wasn't worth it. When the landlord (whose bill the electricity was on) remarked on the number of computers I had running I replied "Well, I could switch them off and switch on the space heater, but this way I can do something useful as well as heat my room." This apparently made sufficient sense to him as he was silent on the subject thereafter.

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next up - hosted AirCons

My very first thought was: in the summer, who pays for the cooling?

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Re: next up - hosted AirCons

The Dutch heating season starts around September 1 and ends at May 1. In mild winters as we have had here for the last few years only limited home heating in the evening is required. Summer heatwaves occur, but are the exception. So a server/heater at home running 7/24 is no option.

However I enjoy unlimited tapwater at 60 °C heated by Eneco's district heating. HPC with hot water cooling can be one of the sources.

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Re: next up - hosted AirCons

A good thing to do in when its hot in summer is to light a fire in the late evenings - if you just heat the chimney it sucks in the cold night air in and cools the house down. Excess heat from the server smallholding could be used in a similar way.

Alas it tends not to work where lots of neighbours have aircons raising the ambient by 15C like most big cities!

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Re: next up - hosted AirCons

Presumably they clock them down to trivial levels so they don't really make any heat in the summer? If they had a partner operation somewhere in the southern hemisphere this might make a bit more sense - otherwise their "cloud"* is going to be decidedly seasonal in its capacity.

*God I hate that word.

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Security?

They've heard of it.

Dunno how hot Dutch summers are, but 24*7 heating would only be desirable three quarters of the year in the UK at most

Surely it would be preferable to pump the warm air into nearby houses and sell that waste as a service, rather than build the necessary power & network infrastructure?

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Nothing to see here, ...

Ah, I knew this wasn't the first time I'd seen this idea. Why didn't el Reg report this: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/this-company-will-heat-your-house-for-free-if-you-have-room-for-its-servers-9859054.html last year? Is it because we could find even earlier examples? Well there's Microsoft's 2011(?) paper: http://research.microsoft.com/pubs/150265/heating.pdf can anyone top this?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nothing to see here, ...

Why didn't the reg report it?

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/11/14/german_cloud_heat_your_home/

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Re: Nothing to see here, ...

This was suggested at inmos in about 1990 as a method of providing compute networks of transputers and get rid of the heat as a replacement for home radiators.

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Facepalm

Nothing new here

Yes, I devised a similar scheme several years ago. I knew it couldn't be original as all of my inventions to date have suffered from the same fault of having been thought up by someone else before.

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I have 6 HP GL360s in a rack in my cellar, (along with switches and so on) just under the floorboards of the kitchen, which provides a nice bit of underfloor heating.

The only drawback is the constant muted roar... But, having said that, it's not much louder than the central heating pump in my dad's house.

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Security implications here, surely?

Nice idea, but how do you stop the householder in question fucking with it? Security 101 again: If an attacker has physical access to your machine, it's not your machine.

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Re: Security implications here, surely?

Get Apple to build it. Taking the thing apart will be impossible.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Security implications here, surely?

One could build tamper-resistant machines. I don't think that's the biggest difficulty with this project. I would guess that the biggest problems are:

- sufficiently fast and reliable network connection (how fast? depends on the application...)

- making machines cheap enough that you don't mind them being unused a lot of the time (all summer)

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Coffee/keyboard

And in the Summer, when you don't need heating...

Convince little Inge that it is OK to pour pancake syrup in the exhaust vents!

(Security on these will be a joke, though)

P.P.S.--I live in coastal California, where we would need the server for heating the equivalent of about 2 weeks every year.

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Meh.

Waste heat from server farms and machine rooms have been used to heat office building in the winter via a massive heat exchanger. You could also use them to heat the ground under side walks to melt snow and ice.

You could also push the heat in to an earth sink or large body of moving water.

BTW, if you're a corporation... would you trust having your server(s) sitting in someone's home unsecured? Didn't think so...

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Anonymous Coward

This is laughable

Well it would be as an April Fools joke. I hope no one is taking this idea seriously when you consider how little energy a CPU or even a complete workstation or server consumes and releases as waste heat. The math is not complicated at all.

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Re: This is laughable

I presume that you don't live in a Passivhaus, or anything close.

BTW, s/math/arithmetic/ it's all you need.

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Re: This is laughable

You obviously haven't tried any cryptocoin mining, have you. A moderately powerful CPU and GPU running full tilt can pump out rather a lot of heat and I've been heating my place like this for the last few winters.

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Speaking of math...

A typical server might have a operating TDP of a few hundred watts. Try heating your room/house with only a few hundred watts of electricity and see what happens. In warm weather you'd be lucky to raise the room temp a degree or two. In cold weather the heat loss rate would far exceed the TDP from the server. Even as a supplemental heat source this idea fails.

You'd need a huge server TDP just to add some heat to a room/house. To use it as a primary heat source isn't even an option. Then you have all the other issues with water based cooling maintenance, logistics, etc. and for what? How could you ever obtain enough heat from the server to be practical? The Biz model fails on so many aspects as to be silly.

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