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posted by hubie on Friday March 17, @10:54AM   Printer-friendly
from the don't-pee-in-the-data-center dept.

Tiny data center makes for a comfortable swim:

A data center about the size of a washing machine is being used to heat a public swimming pool in England.

Data centers' servers generate heat as they operate, and interest is growing in finding ways to harness it to cut energy costs and offset carbon emissions.

In this latest example, the computing technology has been placed inside a white box and surrounded by oil, which captures the heat before being pumped into a heat exchanger, according to a BBC report.

The setup is effective enough to heat a council-run swimming pool in Exmouth, about 150 miles west of London, to about 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) for about 60% of the time, saving the operator thousands of dollars. And with energy costs rising sharply in the U.K., and councils looking for ways to save money, an initiative like this could be the difference between the pool staying open and closing down.

Behind the idea is U.K.-based tech startup Deep Green. In exchange for hosting its kit, Deep Green installs free digital boilers at pools and pays for the energy that they use. Meanwhile, tech firms pay Deep Green to use its computing power for various artificial intelligence and machine learning projects.

    Commercial Underwater Datacenter Goes Online This Year
    Microsoft's Underwater Server Experiment Resurfaces After Two Years
    Heating Homes and Businesses with "Data Furnaces"

Original Submission

Related Stories

Heating Homes and Businesses with "Data Furnaces" 29 comments

BBC News has an article about "nerd power" in the form of heat from datacenters being harnessed to warm homes and businesses:

Ask Jerry van Waardhuizen about his new radiator and you get an excited response. "I'm very enthusiastic," he says. "It's a beautiful thing." The sleek white box, which has been hugging his wall for two weeks, looks nice enough as radiators go. But what's really got Waardhuizen excited is what's going on inside.

Instead of hot water, it contains a computer connected to the internet, doing big sums and kicking out heat in the process. It was created by a Dutch start-up called Nerdalize, and could be part of a solution to a big problem for the tech industry.

We talk about data being "virtual" and stored on a "cloud". In fact, those clouds take the form of very large, noisy data centres containing tens of thousands of servers. To prevent the server stacks overheating, tech companies spend vast sums on cooling technology - more than a third of a data centre's hefty energy bill may go on air conditioning. With data centres estimated to account for 1.5% of global electricity consumption (in 2010), this wastage is costly to businesses and to the environment too.

Nerdalize's solution is, effectively, to spread their data centre across domestic homes linked by fibre-optic cable. The excess heat can then be used instead of going to waste.

The radiators take a little longer than average to heat up - about an hour, Waardhuizen says - and a single unit won't be enough to heat a room in mid-winter. But, after a small set-up fee, the heat is completely free to users. Nerdalize gets its money for providing data services. During this year-long pilot, its clients include Leiden University Medical Centre, which uses the radiators to crunch through lengthy protein and gene analysis.

Mentioned are Nerdalize, a 2011 paper by Microsoft Research and the University of Virginia (pdf), Facebook's Lulea, Sweden datacenter, Bahnhof, Iceotope, and the Westin Building sharing heat with Amazon's headquarters in Seattle.

Microsoft’s Underwater Server Experiment Resurfaces After Two Years 38 comments

Microsoft's underwater server experiment resurfaces after two years:

Back in 2018, Microsoft sunk an entire data center to the bottom of the Scottish sea, plunging 864 servers and 27.6 petabytes of storage 117 feet deep in the ocean. Today, the company has reported that its latest experiment was a success, revealing findings that show that the idea of an underwater data center is actually a pretty good one.

[...] The benefits are big. Microsoft says the underwater data center had just one-eighth the failure rate of a land-based data center, a dramatic improvement. That lower failure rate is important, given that it's much harder to service a busted server when it's in an airtight container at the bottom of the ocean.

Next up for Microsoft's Project Natick team: showing that the servers can be easily removed and recycled once they reach the end of their life.

From the report:

Datacenter Designation   "Northern Isles" (SSDC-002).
Pressure Vessel Dimensions   12.2m length, 2.8m diameter (3.18m including external components); about the size of a 40' ISO shipping container you might see on a ship, train, or truck.
Subsea Docking Structure Dimensions   14.3m length, 12.7m width.
Electrical Power Source   100% locally produced renewable electricity from on-shore wind and solar, off-shore tide and wave.
Electrical Power Consumption   240 KW.
Payload   12 racks containing 864 standard Microsoft datacenter servers with FPGA acceleration and 27.6 petabytes of disk. This Natick datacenter is as powerful as several thousand high end consumer PCs and has enough storage for about 5 million movies.
Location   European Marine Energy Centre, Scotland, UK.
Internal Operating Environment   1 atmosphere pressure, dry nitrogen.
Time to Deploy   Less than 90 days from factory to operation.
Planned Length of Operation Without Maintenance   Up to 5 years.

Original Submission

Commercial Underwater Datacenter Goes Online This Year 13 comments

Commercial underwater datacenter goes online this year:

A company called Subsea Cloud is planning to have a commercially available undersea datacenter operating off the coast of the US before the end of 2022, with other deployments planned for the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea.

Subsea, which says it has already deployed its technology with "a friendly government faction," plans to put its first commercial pod into the water before the end of this year near Port Angeles, Washington.

The company claims that placing its datacenter modules underwater can reduce power consumption and carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent, as well as lowering latency by allowing the datacenter to be located closer to metropolitan areas, many of which are located near the coast.

However, according to Subsea founder Maxie Reynolds, it can also deploy 1MW of capacity for as much as 90 percent less cost than it takes to get 1MW up and running at a land-based facility.

[...] But what happens if something goes wrong, or a customer wants to replace their servers? According to Subsea, customers can schedule periodic maintenance, including server replacement, and the company says that would take 4-16 hours for a team to get to the site, bring up the required pod(s), and replace any equipment.

Original Submission

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  • (Score: 2) by ledow on Friday March 17, @12:09PM (7 children)

    by ledow (5567) on Friday March 17, @12:09PM (#1296667) Homepage

    The pool will still be there in 10 year's time.

    The PC's will be obsolete and the company likely defunct trying to keep them up to date and "saleable" within their profit margin in that time.

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by rondon on Friday March 17, @12:27PM (3 children)

      by rondon (5167) on Friday March 17, @12:27PM (#1296668)

      Exposing a bit of my ignorance here, but don't you think the start-up will have planned and accounted for obsolescence? Or is there a factor related to servers and money that I'm missing?

      • (Score: 4, Interesting) by JoeMerchant on Friday March 17, @01:41PM (1 child)

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday March 17, @01:41PM (#1296677)

        >start-up will have planned and accounted for obsolescence?

        Only if they have experienced and disciplined investors, which is not the majority of startups.

        Україна досі не є частиною Росії. Слава Україні 🌻
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 18, @06:23PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 18, @06:23PM (#1296919)
          Experienced startup investors would have successfully hyped it and sold off their shares to some suckers.

          It's like those pyramid schemes - get in early and sell off to people who think they'd manage to sell it off to others.

          The weird one is Discord not selling to Microsoft. Normally the game plan is to start up a comms thingy, make it difficult for the NSA to spy on it, get popular and sell off to an NSA partner.
      • (Score: 2) by ledow on Monday March 20, @12:52PM

        by ledow (5567) on Monday March 20, @12:52PM (#1297156) Homepage

        Most workplaces don't plan for obsolescence, I see no reason that a startup that will have likely tried to sell out by that point will have bothered.

        Profit plan to investors: up, up, up for the next 5 years.
        Profit plan that's actually true: Year 6 will cost us as much as the startup costs were, but without funding, as we have to replace almost all our kit as it's barely worth running any more.

        Hell, I'll be amazed if they've even taken account of recent electricity price fluctuations, let alone future ones.

        In-house people are replacing their kit all the time and barely because it's "obsolete" so much as users want shiny hardware.
        These people are professing to sell *performance* that in-house people can't obtain. That's a constant stream of upgrades.

        And they are paying for the kit, the racking, the pool integration, the installation, the maintenance AND the electricity for these machines.
        And their income is: whatever people are willing to pay for the processing, i.e. competing with AWS and similar services.

        This is just an expensive way to run a datacenter that you can't get access to most of the time (i.e. when the pool is closed, you aren't going to be able to get near your equipment), competing against the big boys.

        No way that they've factored in that stuff *openly* because investors would run a mile.

    • (Score: 2) by hendrikboom on Friday March 17, @04:22PM (2 children)

      by hendrikboom (1125) on Friday March 17, @04:22PM (#1296701) Homepage Journal

      They can always upgrade to newer computers, which will give them more CPU cycles to sell and will still produce lots of heat.

      • (Score: 2) by looorg on Friday March 17, @05:16PM (1 child)

        by looorg (578) on Friday March 17, @05:16PM (#1296712)

        But won't more rigs, better/faster CPU:s eventually lead to more heat and then by extension hotter water? Wouldn't want to boil the recreational swimmers. I guess they are only heating it to swimming temperatures about 60% of the time according to the summary so there is some wiggle room before the boiling starts, or room to install more data centers to heat the pool all the time to proper temperatures.

        • (Score: 4, Funny) by sjames on Friday March 17, @05:29PM

          by sjames (2882) on Friday March 17, @05:29PM (#1296714) Journal

          As long as they only add a server or 2 at a time, they shouldn't notice...

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 17, @11:08PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 17, @11:08PM (#1296767)

    The old water-heater in the data-centre trick.
    That's the second time I've fallen for it this month.

    • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 17, @11:36PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 17, @11:36PM (#1296772)

      That's the second biggest data center I've ever seen.

  • (Score: 2) by xorsyst on Monday March 20, @04:09PM

    by xorsyst (1372) on Monday March 20, @04:09PM (#1297186)

    "150 miles west of London" is such an American way to describe Exmouth, It's on the other side of the country! It's like describing San Diego as 2750 miles west of New York.

    As per the age-old adage,
    In Britain, 100 miles is a long way.
    In American, 100 years is a long time.