The Stack Archive

Dutch ‘data centre radiator’ trial promises low-cost heat and cheaper hosting

Tue 24 Mar 2015

In an active project similar to the Microsoft data furnace scheme of four years ago, Dutch utility provider Enelco is teaming up with a technology provider in order to offer data centre computers that run hot enough to provide domestic heat. Interestingly, the very IKEA-friendly units will run ‘dumb problems’ to maintain temperature in the event of network failure.

As part of ‘the Nerdalize cloud’, The Nerdalize server radiator , which will be initially trialled to five Dutch households, comes with full docker support, integrates with existing cloud solution, is SSD-rich and provides up to 32gb of RAM per CPU. It also heats water in a closed system in a range between 45 and 55 Celsius, and – running at full capacity – can output up to 8000kWh annually at no cost to the end user.

In ordinary usage the server radiators undertake complex calculations for a range of clients, companies and research institutes, including Leiden University Medical Centre. In the event of zero demand periods, the machines donate number-crunching capacity to good causes such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) research, according to Nerdalize CEO Boaz Leupe. Leupe said that in the event of an internet connection failure, the server radiator will perform ‘dumb calculations’ if necessary in order to keep providing heat on request.

The participating households will all be existing Eneco customers, and will need to be willing to punch a hole in a wall and provide a fast internet connection. The trial will conclude at the end of 2015, and if adopted into a larger scheme will allow end-users to save 400 euros (£293) on their domestic heating bills, according to Eneco spokesman Marcel van Dun.

nerdalize-radiator-detail

Nerdalize was awarded a 250,000 euro (£183,000) grant from the Dutch government in February of this year to develop the server radiator scheme. At that time CEO Mathijs de Meijer commented “Clients can hire computational power on a time basis so do their calculations on the computers we’ve placed in private homes…And because they don’t have to build a data-centre, that computational power can be delivered at a much lower price,

“What we do is distribute the calculations where the heat is mostly needed,” de Meijer continued. “That’s where the broadband and virtualisation structures come into play. It’s very complicated and extra variables have to take into account to work out how and where to distribute the computational power,”

Microsoft’s interest in cloud-computed caloric value seems to have diminished lately, but Swedish Bahnhof are already far advanced in their plans to exploit data centre waste heat in metro environments, while Graphite Design Group and Clise Properties announced their own plans last autumn to re-use waste data centre heat at a campus in Seattle, Washington. Over in Germany, however, there are some trout finding data centre output too hot to handle.

No details have been given of the ‘dumb calculations’ the Nerdalize server will perform if cut off from the world, but the Ackerman function puts a legendary strain on a CPU load – or there’s always the energy-sapping pursuit of Mersenne numbers. Or just visit a lot of Flash-based sites.

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