Homeowners in the Netherlands will soon be able to heat their showers with servers

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 2,854   +744
Staff member

If I run my PS4 for more than a couple of hours, it puts out a lot of heat. In fact, it will turn my usually cool man cave toasty warm. Other than some discomfort, which I can control by opening the windows, the heat it produces does not cause any problems. However, hot exhaust generated by servers can cause serious problems, especially in a data center.

Aside from the fact that a server typically runs 24/7 and generates more heat than your average consumer appliance, confining thousands of them in an enclosed space requires complex and expensive heat mitigation and cooling techniques. Everything from sophisticated ventilation to refrigeration has been used with varying degrees of effectiveness. Nevertheless, no matter what solution is used, a lot of energy is lost as wasted heat.

A Dutch startup called Nerdalize has come up with a novel approach to the problem of server heat mitigation. For a small fee, the company will install a server in your home to heat your water. You save about €300 per year on your heating bill, and they get an efficiently heat-mitigated server rack which they will use to sell cloud-based services. The company claims that the savings will pay for the installation fee in 18 months.

The pilot program will start this August in 42 households in the Netherlands. Nerdalize estimates that the energy savings per installation will reduce each household’s carbon emissions by 300 tons per year. Over 126 tons of CO2 will be eliminated by the pilot program alone in its first year.

Providing "free heat for everyone and [making] cloud computing sustainable and affordable," is the company's founding goal.

This endeavor is not Nerdalize’s first go at harnessing the heat of servers. According to the BBC, five homes participated in a previous pilot program in 2015, which used a single server as a sort of wall heater. The results were less than promising as the heaters were slow and did not put out enough heat to warm the entire room.

The company is not letting the results of the first pilot slow it down though. This time it has partnered with Eneco, Holland’s energy provider, to reach more homes and provide oversight of the energy usage.

How is replacing one heating device that runs efficiently on natural gas with another device that runs inefficiently on electric going to save energy and money for the homeowner? That is where the partnership with Eneco comes into play.

Eneco will monitor the amount of energy being used by the servers and then divert that cost to Nerdalize’s energy bill, so the homeowner does not get stuck with the server bill. The result is homeowners do not have to pay the cost of heating their water and Nerdalize pays the cost of running its server while not having to pay extra to cool it. This reduction in operating costs also means that they can offer cloud services for 50 percent less.

However, there is still the obstacle of managing servers that are spread out over a large area. Technicians will have to travel to individual racks if they are all spread out. Even confining the servers to the same neighborhood is going to require much more time and work when managing the servers.

What about data security? Companies might not like the idea of having their data hosted on a server that is not under full control of the hosting company. Hopefully, this is something that Nerdalize has thought through.

Nerdalize says its business plan is a "win-win-win" situation. Reducing the consumer's energy bill, thinking the carbon footprint of all involved, offering services at half price, and mitigating server cooling costs -- sounds more like a win-win-win-win to me. It is a clever idea, as long as it works.

Permalink to story.

 

insect

Posts: 349   +132
What about data security? Companies might not like the idea of having their data hosted on a server that is not under full control of the hosting company. Hopefully, this is something that Nerdalize has thought through.

This. It won't get off the ground for security reasons alone.
 

psycros

Posts: 3,360   +3,801
Wait..their charging a fee to help THEM lower their waste heat footprint? And who pays for the bandwidth? A server rack doesn't produce even half the heat of a water heater so you're likely to break even at best. Unless the homeowners are provided a VM on that hardware and the provider pays for the connection, this is a total scam.
 

Evernessince

Posts: 5,464   +6,145
What about data security? Companies might not like the idea of having their data hosted on a server that is not under full control of the hosting company. Hopefully, this is something that Nerdalize has thought through.

This. It won't get off the ground for security reasons alone.

I don't know about that. So long as they practice basic encryption, even a computer literate person would have trouble getting any useful data. Given that this is a cloud server, it won't be handling a complete set of data by itself so piecing together decent information from just the one installed in your house isn't likely. If anything, Cloud servers are the best fit for installing in random people's homes.
 

insect

Posts: 349   +132
I don't know about that. So long as they practice basic encryption, even a computer literate person would have trouble getting any useful data. Given that this is a cloud server, it won't be handling a complete set of data by itself so piecing together decent information from just the one installed in your house isn't likely. If anything, Cloud servers are the best fit for installing in random people's homes.

Its not about accessing the data - its about destroying the data. A baseball bat can do just as much damage in lost time/productivity/lost work as someone stealing it. Maybe worse (I.e., a student's thesis paper or data for example) - nothing you can really use, but that's years of someones life which they trusted to the cloud provider not to lose.
 

Evernessince

Posts: 5,464   +6,145
Its not about accessing the data - its about destroying the data. A baseball bat can do just as much damage in lost time/productivity/lost work as someone stealing it. Maybe worse (I.e., a student's thesis paper or data for example) - nothing you can really use, but that's years of someones life which they trusted to the cloud provider not to lose.

1st: every cloud provider has multiple backups. They wouldn't be in business for long if they didn't.

2nd: You would have to be very very very stupid to take a baseball bat to a server. They know which server is in your house (pretty easy to record MAC, serial numbers, ect, ect). Good lucky paying for a new server and going to court for destruction of property.

3rd: What reason could you possibly have to even attack a random cloud server?
 

insect

Posts: 349   +132
1st: every cloud provider has multiple backups. They wouldn't be in business for long if they didn't.

2nd: You would have to be very very very stupid to take a baseball bat to a server. They know which server is in your house (pretty easy to record MAC, serial numbers, ect, ect). Good lucky paying for a new server and going to court for destruction of property.

3rd: What reason could you possibly have to even attack a random cloud server?

1. Yes, large cloud providers would. This is pilot - unsure if they would have multiple backups or just shard the data.
2 and 3. Some people don't care/drunk/drugged/crazy/"accident"
 

techseven

Posts: 31   +24
This is quite interesting, I hope we will be updated on this story. Of course there is a lot to sort out.

In my mind I am not picturing that 1 or 2 servers can make your shower hot enough, fast enough. But if you have a water heater/tank, they can work towards that goal.

But what if you don't use the hot water for a while? It will eventually get hot and stop absorbing heat. Many unanswered questions here...
 

frostyshield

Posts: 87   +89
Am I missing something here or are servers suddenly extremely hot? I cant see the water being hot enough to be "warm" when it hits my body..
 
J

Jibberish18

This seems like a really good idea but in my head I imagined a company building a large server center under a newly constructed building of affordable housing for example. Having it done individually seems like it will have it's share of problems. Still, you can't blame them for trying.
 

petert

Posts: 367   +166
Makes a lot of sense - a server is taking the energy and converting it mostly into heat (if you ignore the fans).

It would be a bit noisy I assume.
 

erickmendes

Posts: 618   +273
It's a brilliant idea. Anyone worried about data security or redudancy should stop using online services, as encryption and redudancy is already taking for granted on any online service, if you don't trust google/facebook/whatever for that, you wouldn't trust anyone who provides service on the Internet, be it's server on a backplane on someones house our in one of googles ultra datancenters. This make's no difference for cloud provider, it could even make the services faster. If we had server racks on every building trading energy/heat with less complex system (water heating system), we could have server racks everywhere, the same way we have heating everywhere in cold countries.

Putting those distributed servers racks could even be a reason to greate a better coverage of optical cables through out, and the major online services could use those racks to cache data more accessed by the near clients.

This could reduce the latency we see on today online services from the 100's of ms we see today for less then 10 ms.

If they can't keep a server in a household secure and your data redundant everywere, it's not a datacenter that will make difference the concept is the same for both.