This sort of cloud hot air could actually be useful

Distributing computers in homes for use in federated clouds could both heat homes and power cloud computing

I always have to account for the number of computers I have running in a room. The more computers you have, the warmer the space. Indeed, I'm pretty sure my college dorm room never used traditional heat. It wasn't necessary with the four computers that were always on.

What if we took this to the next level? We're building data center after data center, each containing thousands of servers, all generating heat. Perhaps we should move those servers out to homes that need to be heated: a win-win.

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Indeed, two researchers at the University of Virginia and four at Microsoft Research explored this possibility in a paper reviewed at the Usenix Workshop on Hot Topics in Cloud Computing: "The paper looks at how the servers -- though still operated by their companies -- could be placed inside homes and used as a source of heat. The authors call the concept the 'data furnace.'"

The idea is that we'll have micro data centers, meaning small cabinets filled with servers where air flows over the servers to both cool the servers and heat the apartment, office building, or house. All that's needed is a broadband connection and the willingness to see hundreds of blinking lights where your furnace used to be.

Hosting just 110 cores could keep a home as warm as a conventional furnace does. You could even get a monthly check from the owner of those servers for the right to use your home as a data center.

The problem comes in the summer when cooling -- not heating -- is required. Servers only put out heat, not cold air. However, for the more northern areas, the use of cloud computing's hot air could still be feasible, given the number of months they require heating versus cooling.

Of course, managing servers distributed all over the place could be a challenge. However, distributed server management systems work great -- although you may have to interrupt dinner to replace a failed motherboard from time to time.

This article, "This sort of cloud hot air could actually be useful," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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