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IBM Tests Heating Homes With Data-Center Waste Heat

Cooling computers with hot water is a step toward zero-emission data centers

2 min read

20 November 2008—Data centers are notorious energy hogs. In 2006, data centers in the United States ran up an electric bill of US $4.5 billion, according to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report. But engineers at IBM’s Zurich Research Laboratory think they can cut data centers’ energy consumption in half by cooling computers with water and reusing the dissipated energy to heat nearby homes. This week, at the International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage and Analysis, known as SC08, in Austin, Texas, the IBM engineers presented details of a prototype system, which they say will be commercially available in five years.

The engineers have built a data center that reuses 85 percent of the heat it generates while consuming about half the electricity, says Bruno Michel, manager of the advanced thermal packaging group at IBM’s Zurich laboratory. Instead of using air-conditioning or fans, the data center is cooled with water pumped through microchannels within the computers. The water absorbs the heat from the data center and is then pumped out to nearby houses for heating. The occupants pay for the heat. A 10-megawatt data center could produce enough energy to heat 700 homes, says Michel.

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Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar

You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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