Microsoft knows that the future of computing is in the cloud, and released a paper today that would address some negatives of the cloud computing revolution and turn them into positives. The paper starts out pointing out the similarities between today’s common furnace and water heater to a modern day data server. All three devices are large metal boxes that give off a lot of heat, and Microsoft argues that we can use that heat to warm up our buildings. By using energy that is already going to be used to heat a building, it would negate the power consumption of the data server.
With everyone coming out with a cloud-based service, the need for cloud servers is increasing daily. Microsoft’s plan makes sense on a basic level: We need to heat buildings in the winter, and we need cloud servers. Microsoft uses the example of an office building that could host its cloud servers in the basement. Having the dedicated data center so close to its users would increase performance, and reduce the building’s carbon footprint. Currently computer servers consume three percent of our nation’s energy, and heating houses consumes six percent. If Microsoft can change those numbers around, and remove the energy used solely to power a “Data Furnace,” then the whole world would benefit.
The study touches on several Earth-saving issues, and we think that it is commendable. As of right now it does not seem to be a solution for our energy problems, but it is a step in the right direction. The paper points out that home and office servers can use old, outdated computers and help keep those machines out of landfills. The question of how the data will flow to and from the servers will need to be ironed out, as well as what happens when it’s summer and you don’t want a heater going full time. Those issues are addressed in the paper, but we don’t feel that the solutions provided would truly unlock the potential of this idea.