This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.
Let’s look at two buildings. In the winter, a condo complex is busy burning natural gas to heat up all of its 50 or so units. The condo is fairly efficient, but Seattle is a cold place and the building still uses a lot of fuel to keep people warm. Next door there’s a server farm. It’s filled with high-end computer components whirring and computing and using a huge amount of energy. The heat that results from this energy is dumped outside, as computers want to be cold, not warm. The obvious solution is to connect the two – build residential over server farms. The farms don’t care about the view, and the residents can benefit from all of the free heat and high-quailty network connection.
Microsoft (in their suburban-loving way) has looked at this for individual homes. But breaking this into 50 pieces is crazy – you need 50x the network runs, multiple times the installation cost, maintenance would be expensive and would involve visiting multiple homes, and security would be a nightmare. I’ve actually seen something like this done for large office buildings – our own SAM has a similar setup with the WAMU* building it’s attached to. But connecting a server farm to a multifamily building would be perfect – offices need very little heat in comparison, since they run during the day and have high internal loads (from all of their lights – and computers!). Homes need heat all the time in the winter, and have much smaller internal loads.
* I’m sure it has another name now.