Heating with the Data Server - Cloud & Heat Technologies GmbH from Dresden makes it possible

The Cloud&Heat Technologies GmbH is both an IT service provider and an energy supplier. The company’s award winning concept combines cloud computing on decentralized servers with the heating of buildings. This is, in more ways than one, a truly efficient green tech solution.

Today, more than ten percent of Germany’s energy consumption is used for information and communication technology – and this share will get even bigger. The data volume continues to increase, which is also due to cloud services. In addition to energy efficient devices, the use of waste heat from computers can also result in enormous savings. Not an entirely new idea. New, however, is the concept created by the Dresden-based Cloud&Heat corporation which revolves around combining cloud-based computing power with the heating of buildings and residential blocks.

A One Stop IT Service Provider and Energy Supplier

The business model sounds simple: Heat from the server cabinet is used for heating. The requisite computer capacity is sold on the cloud market. “Computing in the cloud,” which means outsourcing data storage and computing processes into a network of external servers, is becoming more and more popular. Apple iCloud, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, or Dropbox are some well-known examples. Cloud&Heat provides such cloud-based computing services.

“Unlike other computer clouds, our cloud servers don’t all stand together in a huge computer center; instead, they’re spread decentrally in the basements of private homes or residential blocks,” explains René Marcel Schretzmann, CEO of Cloud&Heat. “The waste heat which is generated is used directly for heating the buildings and the water. That’s why most of the required electrical energy can also be used as thermal energy.” And the energy intensive cooling of the servers, which is often indispensable in conventional computer centers, is no longer necessary. This permits savings of up to 6.2 tons of CO2 per server.

The Cloud&Heat “server heating system” consists of a fire proof safety cabinet which houses 12 to 17 servers. Anyone who decides to install such a system in their private home will have to pay Euro 12,000 for the investment. In return, Cloud&Heat will supply the building with hot water and heating energy free of charge for 15 years. And only green electricity is used. The server’s heating power of up to 3 kW suffices to be the sole heating source for modern nearly zero energy and passive houses with up to 250 square meters of floor space. In addition to the server cabinet, a fiber optic internet connection is needed along with a 1,000 liter buffer storage tank for hot water.

Data Security and Heating System

Cloud&Heat will install a separate internet connection for the server operation. The individual servers will be connected to one another via fiber optic cables to create a virtual computer center. “Thereafter, we’ll assume all incurred internet and electricity costs,” emphasizes Schretzmann. “And, of course, we’ll also cover the maintenance and repair costs.” At Cloud&Heat, security comes first: All data are encoded and stored redundantly. An alarm system protects the fire retardant safety cabinet against burglary. Once a year, a service team member conducts the regular service of the server and heating system. So that all technical parts and components are always up to date, the servers are replaced every three to five years.

Test Run in a Private Home

The idea of combining heating and cloud services comes from Christof Fetzer, a professor of computer science, and physicist Jens Struckmeier. “I wanted to build a house and was looking for an energy efficient heating system,” notes Fetzer. In order to implement their concept, they teamed up with a third partner, René Marcel Schretzmann. Together, they founded the AoTerra GmbH corporation in Dresden at the end of 2011 which was renamed Cloud&Heat Technologies GmbH in April 2014. The founders developed the requisite technology, which has been patented in the meantime, in cooperation with Dresden University of Technology. After a trial phase in Christof Fetzer’s private home, they launched a marketing campaign for their computing services and heating systems.

The Business Unit “Heat” has become a success story. In order to produce heat, the servers need to work at sufficient computing capacity. That’s why the company has increased its advertising activities in the Business Unit “Cloud.” “We’re not only offering a ‘green’ cloud,” says CEO Schretzmann. “We’re also guaranteeing that all data are stored only on German servers.” Many customers really appreciate this.

In late 2014, the start up enterprise employed around 40 people; primarily engineers and software developers. More than 100 server cabinets are already in use all around Germany; most of them are found in apartment buildings. For example, in a new building project of the Dresden-based housing cooperative “Aufbau” in cooperation with the municipal utility company Drewag. Here, 56 apartments are supplied with hot water through waste heat from servers in an energy efficient manner. For their concept, Cloud&Heat was presented with Saxony’s Environmental Award 2013, and they made it into the final round of the “German Industry’s Innovation Award.” As a next step, the company wants to transfer its business model to other countries.

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