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Data Furnaces

There are many ways to hide from the winter but I recently read a paper presented in “Usenix Workshop on Hot Topics in Cloud Computing” that proposes the idea of using cloud server generated heat to warm up houses instead of a furnace or room heaters .

This paper titled “The Data Furnace: Heating Up with Cloud Computing “ was co-authored by Jie Liu, Michel Goraczko, Christian Belady and Sean James from Microsoft Research and Jiakang Lu and Kamin Whitehouse, from the Computer Science Department at the University of Virginia. The paper puts forward the idea of dispersing the cloud servers amongst homes instead of having a giant volcano in a single place; the heat generated by the servers can help the building/home to survive the winter.

The proposed idea works like this. A homeowner purchases a data furnace for the cost of less than a regular oil-based furnace. The cost to run it is also less than when they were using an oil-based furnace. The maintenance costs and the electricity cost for running the server will be paid by the cloud service provider. Ownership cost-benefit analysis of this model reveals that the correctly designed data furnace will not only heat a 1700 square foot home to 70 degrees Fahrenheit but it also helps cloud service providers save $300 per server per year.

These data furnaces are suitable for delay-tolerant batch works such as non-real-time web crawling or large data processing or online video rental services. With data servers installed locally, location-based services like navigation, traffic monitoring and local store advertisements is provided quickly to people living locally as the servers are distributed locally.

Data furnaces have some limitations which include ensuring the power and network connectivity are even when the building power fails. Physical and data security can also be maintained and any hardware/software problems can be handled quickly and remotely. During summer the heat won’t be a problem as the data furnace will vent the heat outside the building (just like cloth dryers).

The author says ,“Even at the event of software failure, the system should continue to provide heat until receiving physical services.”

The PPT that the authors have uploaded shows the space heating requires power twice the power of IT and so with having furnaces like this we not only save power but also use the heat which is a burden of any data center.

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