Microsoft Proposes Heating Homes with Cloud Servers

Dennis Faas's picture

Fact: Houses get cold in the winter months. Fact: The exhaust from a rack of cloud servers carries an average temperature between 104-122F. Microsoft is proposing that the racks (called "Data Furnaces") would be hot enough to replace the entire heating system of a home or office.

Internet properties like Facebook and Google have already come up with large-scale solutions to combat unwanted exhaust, pumping steady streams of hot air into the skies of chilly cities around the U.S. But this act serves to rid the surrounding area of this waste without putting it to good use as Microsoft has since proposed.

Free Heat and Hot Water for Participants

Data Furnaces would not only create tremendous changes for household heating, but also alter the current design of data center creation. Now, instead of building mega data centers that are efficient in terms of scale, Data Furnaces would support micro data centers that would be housed in the basements of regular homes and offices. These Data Furnaces (consisting of 40-400 CPUs or 1-10 racks) would be ducted into the heating system of the building.

The situation is likely a win-win for companies and households alike. Companies that already maintain big cloud presences would provide these Data Furnaces, and in turn, homes and offices would receive free heat and hot water. (Source:

Security, Electricity Costs Likely Problems

There are some problems that would likely come as a result of changes made to the ways in which data centers are currently housed. The first is the question of physical security, since current data centers have restricted access. Microsoft does address this issue, claiming that sensor networks would send out a warning to administrators if physical security had been breached, while whole-scale encryption of the data on these servers would follow. (Source:

On the other hand, the biggest problem for homeowners is that despite free heat and hot water, electricity costs would soar -- though homeowners would likely receive a kickback for housing a micro data center.

Whether this is enough to entice them to convert their basements into a high-functioning data center is another story.

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