In energy-consuming data centers, more than a third of the electricity is used to cool processing units. With Q.rad, Paris-based IT outfit Qarnot computing developed a smart green processing solution. The innovative heating technology uses processing units as a primary heat source to maximize computing energy efficiency while simultaneously providing free heat to homes and offices. Qarnot computing’s cloud service distributes High Performance Computing (HPC) workloads efficiently to Q.rad’s digital heater farm according to the host’s needs for heat as well as HPC workload constraints.
“The energy impact of this solution, when compared to the current set-up with data centers and conventional heaters, results in a carbon footprint that is 75% smaller”, emphasizes Paul Benoit, Founder & CEO of Qarnot Computing. The Q.rad is an electric radiator using high-performance processors as a heat source. Inside the Q.rad, there are three to four powerful computers working remotely for companies such as banks and animation studios or research labs, mostly for simulation tasks. Totally silent, the device gets its computing instructions through the Internet. The heat produced by workload processing provides free and efficient heating for homes and offices. Through a thermal regulation system and a proprietary workload distribution platform, processing and heating power can be matched all year long. Thus, Qarnot offers competitive cloud computing with a low IT carbon footprint.
Benoit, a computer science engineer, developed the idea to place the microprocessors inside heaters ten years ago. “I was working in the R&D department of a major bank which was intensively using thousands of computers night and day to run computations”, explains Benoit. “I was impressed by the amount of energy used to supply these ‘digital factories’, the data centers, and especially by the amount of energy to cool them down. So, I thought: ‘Why not use these computers as a heating system?’”
In 2010, Benoit created Qarnot computing to put this idea into action. Meanwhile, Qarnot has deployed more than 350 radiators in Parisian housing projects, which heat 110 households for free. Among the latest installations is the Paris-based animation studio Supamonks, which is shifting its focus from advertising to TV production. When the studio moved to a larger facility in the fall 2015, the company wanted to take a new approach to production that favored sustainability. Key to the transition is a render farm that is using the thermal discharge of the devices to heat the office. The new studio facilities are equipped with two heaters comprised of 64 rendering nodes.
“Qarnot computing’s business model is two-sided”, Benoit points out. “On the one hand, we sell the Q.rad digital heaters; on the other, we provide cloud computing services — running on the Q.rads — for finance, 3D animation, and research.” HPC revenues allow Qarnot to build and install Q.rads, which provides free heating to homes and offices. Avoiding data center costs related to infrastructure, maintenance and cooling allows Qarnot to offer energy-efficient cloud HPC at an unbeatable price.
Due to its CE-certification, the Q.rad can be installed in any country. Furthermore, the EU has recognized Qarnot in the EU H2020 Open & Disruptive Innovation Scheme. The new version of the Q.rad digital heater also implements Smart Home features like air quality and presence monitoring, smart alarm systems, voice recognition, and entertainment payloads. “We already pre-sold more than 400 units of our new version”, says Benoit, “before it was launched at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January 2016.”