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AMD Businesses Cloud Hardware Technology

French Company Plans To Heat Homes, Offices With AMD Ryzen Pro Processors 181

At its Ryzen Pro event in New York City last month, AMD invited a French company called Qarnot to discuss how they're using Ryzen Pro processors to heat homes and offices for free. The company uses the Q.rad -- a heater that embeds three CPUs as a heat source -- to accomplish this feat. "We reuse the heat they generate to heat homes and offices for free," the company says in a blog post. "Q.rad is connected to the internet and receives in real time workloads from our in-house computing platform."

The idea is that anyone in the world can send heavy workloads over the cloud to a Q.rad and have it render the task and heat a person's home in the process. The two industries that are targeted by Qarnot include movies studios for 3D rendering and VFX, and banks for risk analysis. Qarnot is opting in for Ryzen Pro processors over Intel i7 processors due to the performance gain and heat output. According to Qarnot, they "saw a performance gain of 30-45% compared to the Intel i7." They also report that the Ryzen Pro is "producing the same heat as the equivalent Intel CPUs" they were using -- all while providing twice as many cores.

While it's neat to see a company convert what would otherwise be wasted heat into a useful asset that heats a person's home, it does raise some questions about the security and profitability of their business model. By using Ryzen Pro's processors, OS independent memory encryption is enabled to provide additional security layers to Qarnot's heaters. However, Q.rads are naturally still going to be physically unsecured as they can be in anyone's house.

Further reading: The Mac Observer, TechRepublic
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French Company Plans To Heat Homes, Offices With AMD Ryzen Pro Processors

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  • It will be interesting to see what measures are taken to limit risk of tampering with the devices to gain access to the platform and/or to simply peg cpu utilization for more heat output.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      the 'heaters' function as compute farms, i'm sure the processors are running at 100% whenever the unit is on (they are thermostatically controlled, btw).

      they pay back the electricity used, so it's a win-win for all involved.

      too bad they don't deal with ordinary households (minimum deployment is 20 units), i'd take like four of them (and they would run non-stop 7-8 months out of the year here).

      • Sounds like a Groupon to me.
  • Who is paying?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      From their website: "The Q.rad produces heat by computation, the electricity consumption is measured by an embedded counter and related expenses are automatically refunded to the host."

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        From their website: "The Q.rad produces heat by computation, the electricity consumption is measured by an embedded counter and related expenses are automatically refunded to the host."

        . . . refunded . . . ?!? Like, when . . . ?!?!? When "monkeys fly out of their asses" is probably the correct answer.

        "Thank you for your participation in our ThinkFarter initiative!" You will receive a prototype of our device real soon now!"

    • Who is paying?

      The end user has to pay the electricity bill anyways. A processor is no less efficient at producing heat from electricity than a space heater. In both cases, electricity goes in and heat goes out. I would have no problem installing one in my house especially if I got a percentage of the profit as that would just be free money. The only problem I see with this is that my heater only runs about 3 months out of the year. As another poster mentioned, this would seem like a better match for a water heater

      • by mysidia ( 191772 )

        A processor is no less efficient at producing heat from electricity than a space heater.

        The processor might produce LESS heat per Watt input than a resistive coil; given that a portion of the energy is being used for computation operations that dissipate some energy as other high-entropy forms that are not heat.

  • by Entrope ( 68843 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2017 @05:35AM (#55186783) Homepage

    I know the French take a vacation in August, but it seems like you wouldn't want a space heater running during any of the summer. Even if you have air conditioning, you'd have to pay more to pump the generated great out of your home.

    • That's what I was thinking. It's not like they can just turn the machines off during summer-times, their whole cloud-computing platform would be basically rendered useless during summer if they did. They could turn the machines off during business-hours, but again, that'd bring the platform's uptime down drastically, and it wouldn't solve the heating-problem at all, as it takes a long time for big buildings to cool down.

      I don't see how this would make much sense in an office-building, but I suppose it could

      • by gwolf ( 26339 )

        Well, their terms of service could include the fact that it's mandatory for owners to ship their boxes to Argentina, Australia or South Africa by April, and have it sent back by October.

      • The clever thing to do would be to operate in multiple countries, such that you could ship the workload around the world. That only works for customers who can afford the latency, but if you're selling both compute time and heating, you might be able to lower your prices such that it becomes attractive to enough people to make it profitable.

      • by judoguy ( 534886 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2017 @09:20AM (#55187621) Homepage
        All residential buildings have need for domestic water heating all year long.

        This particular scheme might turn out not to be practical but the basic idea is great.

        Rather than paying gobs of money to waste heat from a server farm, use it to heat something you need to heat anyway.

        I bet we've all seen the situation at work where the company is heating the building with a conventional HVAC system and at the same time refrigerating the server room. This can be difficult to fix after construction, but should grow more common in the design phase as time goes by.

    • I am sure you can still unplug the unit. Maybe they can make it into a hot plate or a griddle.
    • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

      I know the French take a vacation in August, but it seems like you wouldn't want a space heater running during any of the summer. Even if you have air conditioning, you'd have to pay more to pump the generated great out of your home.

      I don't know if you have noticed (and it just may be some Northern hemisphere bias kicking in) but the internet doesn't care what part of the world you live in. So if its hot in one location you could just as easily direct your traffic to a location where it is cold, and heat that spot.

      If I can think of that 5 seconds after reading your post then I am sure there are even more sophisticated solutions being thought up at Qarnot.

      • Turning half your installed equipment off for a third to half of the year seems like it will really stretch out the time to break even on it -- I don't think margins on cloud computing are that fat.

        If I could think of that in half a second after thinking that maybe they'd just turn things of during the summer, maybe you could too.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I know the French take a vacation in August, but it seems like you wouldn't want a space heater running during any of the summer. Even if you have air conditioning, you'd have to pay more to pump the generated great out of your home.

      What happens in summer? What happens when there are no computation tasks to run?

      The processors of the Q.rads are regulated to meet the target temperature defined by the end-user. The computing power is naturally impacted by seasonality. By using processors low power modes and by choosing adapted deployment sites, Qarnot manages to keep a minimum computing capacity all year long. To compute all-year round when computing demand is higher than the deployed capacity, Qarnot also starts to have partnerships with

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      It seems like they would be better used to heat water, since even in summer people want hot water.

      • I'm not sure what the standard is in Europe for in-home heat generation, but in the US, water heaters (which need to direct heat to a relatively small vessel) are separate from central heating systems and space heaters (which both want to distribute heat to the general indoor "environment"). How were you thinking this would work? Like an electric kettle, or hooked into the home's hot water system? Neither seems very practical, given the vessel vs environment heating problem.

      • by tomhath ( 637240 )

        Gosh, why didn't they think of that. Oh wait, they did:

        FTFA

        In the meantime, we are considering AMD’s CPUs and GPUs, as we are working on new products, including a boiler for domestic hot water and swimming pool heating solutions.

    • by fgouget ( 925644 )

      I know the French take a vacation in August, but it seems like you wouldn't want a space heater running during any of the summer.

      From the Qarnot FAQ [qarnot.com]:

      The processors of the Q.rads are regulated to meet the target temperature defined by the end-user. The computing power is naturally impacted by seasonality. By using processors low power modes and by choosing adapted deployment sites, Qarnot manages to keep a minimum computing capacity all year long. To compute all-year round when computing demand is higher than the deployed capacity, Qarnot also starts to have partnerships with green data centers and to develop other products for site

  • by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2017 @05:56AM (#55186831) Homepage Journal

    When you can use $600 of silicon to do the job?

    • When you can use $600 of silicon to do the job?

      Which job? Nichrome wire can solve computing problems? Or are you under the impression that supercomputers won't exist and those $600 of silicon won't get bought if it weren't for the spaceheaters?

      Remember this is using waste heat, not waste processing.

    • Because this is utilizing the waste of one process (computing) for another useful purpose (heating), and results in net benefits for everyone. The office doesn't pay for heating, and the party utilizing the computing doesn't pay for cooling.

  • Whenever i get cold, i just fire up my dual Xeon workstation and let it run a bit of number crunching for LHC@home
  • by excelsior_gr ( 969383 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2017 @06:27AM (#55186895)

    Because this business model is not well though-of. Internet informs me that AMD Ryzen 7 PRO 1700X consumes 95 W of power, much like an old-school light-bulb. Crappy oil radiators seem to start at 600 W (about 6 CPUs) and better ones have a power consumption of up to 2500 W (26 CPUs). Having used such radiators myself, I would definitely go with the bigger one. Other points of interest are the surface area, the surface temperature and the heat transfer mechanism that are different between a 2500 W oil radiator and a 26 CPU rack. Even if the CPUs reach a rather elevated temperature (1700X maxes out at 95 C), the surface temperature of the rack is only going to be luke warm, so you're not going to get any heat radiated to you. The heat is going to reach you by convection via the fans, which is a crappy way to warm yourself up. Then you would need a full rack at least in every other room to heat up a whole home, which will take up a lot of space.

    If you're going to run a data center, the only thing this will save is the real-estate space. The costs of installation, transportation etc, however, are going to eat away most of the savings in my opinion. I suppose, of course, that Qarnot will be paying for the electricity. If not, then they are just looking for chumps that would be better off switching back to incadescent light bulbs.

    • And also the noise, imagine a rack of servers at full load, it will not generate that much heat, but it will sound like a jet engine.

      I guess they wouldn't have the costs of a datacenter, but also wouldn't have the benefits, like fast network, someone nearby to solve any issues (imagine a server shutsdown in the middle of the night, on a weekend, and need a reset or to replace a part, will you dispatch a technician to the persons house immediately or wait until monday morning? what if they are not at home?)

      • Servers are so loud because they use lots of tiny fans that have to spin very fast to move the required amount of air - large quiet fans simply wouldn't fit into a 1U case. If these servers are supposed to heat the building, they can be installed in a fully passive cooled case which would be essentially silent.

      • by fgouget ( 925644 )

        And also the noise, imagine a rack of servers at full load, it will not generate that much heat, but it will sound like a jet engine.

        From their FAQ [qarnot.com]: Q.rads are totally silent since there are no mobile parts inside the Q.rad (no ventilators, no hard drives).

        I guess they wouldn't have the costs of a datacenter, but also wouldn't have the benefits, like fast network, someone nearby to solve any issues (imagine a server shutsdown in the middle of the night,

        See above: no moving part. This greatly improves reliability. Plus, still from their FAQ: In addition, Q.rads computing nodes are stateless without any storage.. Finally this is distributed computing, no server is critical. If one device dies down, then just direct the workload to any other.

        Besides that, using resistive heating is terribly energy inefficient, a heat pump is much more economical.

        Datacenters need lots of cooling and lots of infrastructure for redundancy. Here redundancy is

        • And while I like heat pumps they are not very popular in France and do have drawbacks like a lot of noise and questionable power output depending on climate.

          A ground source heat pump has no need for an outdoor unit with moving mechanical components: no external noise is produced.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

          • by fgouget ( 925644 )

            And while I like heat pumps they are not very popular in France and do have drawbacks like a lot of noise and questionable power output depending on climate.

            A ground source heat pump has no need for an outdoor unit with moving mechanical components: no external noise is produced.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

            But they need a deep well or a lot of surface to install tubing for the heat exchanger which is not practical for the kind of large buildings targeted by Qarnot. So there is essentially no overlap between the two markets.

    • by fgouget ( 925644 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2017 @08:55AM (#55187481)

      Because this business model is not well though-of. Internet informs me that AMD Ryzen 7 PRO 1700X consumes 95 W of power, much like an old-school light-bulb.

      95W to which you add power consumption for the motherboard chipset, RAM, network card, and power supply. Qarnot has been on the market for two years already so I'm pretty sure they know what they are doing by now.

      Crappy oil radiators seem to start at 600 W (about 6 CPUs) and better ones have a power consumption of up to 2500 W (26 CPUs).

      Bigger = better. Are you American? A 2600W heater is not any better if what you need is a 500W one. Also one big 2600W heater is not better than two 1300W ones as it concentrates all the heat in one place causing uneven heating. Finally they are mostly targeting new building that, by law, have to follow low-energy [wikipedia.org] standards and thus need much less heating.

      Even if the CPUs reach a rather elevated temperature (1700X maxes out at 95 C), the surface temperature of the rack is only going to be luke warm, so you're not going to get any heat radiated to you.

      Wow! You don't know anything about heating, do you?

      High temperature heaters are really out of fashion because they cause lots of convection, moving the dust around, and because all the heat to go to the ceiling leaving the reat of the room, where you are, cold, thus increasing heating costs.

      So nowadays most everyone buys low temperature heaters that provide a mix of convection and heating via infrared radiation (with its ultimate form being underfloor heating [wikipedia.org]). They provide a much more even heating which lets you turn the thermostat down and thus save on power.

      The heat is going to reach you by convection via the fans, which is a crappy way to warm yourself up.

      From the Qarnot FAQ [qarnot.com]: Q.rads are totally silent since there are no mobile parts inside the Q.rad (no ventilators, no hard drives).

      The costs of installation, transportation etc, however, are going to eat away most of the savings in my opinion.

      That's probably why they don't target individual houses. Again from their FAQ: For now, we only install Q.rads in buildings for a minimum of 20 units !

      I suppose, of course, that Qarnot will be paying for the electricity.

      Still from their FAQ [qarnot.com]: Qarnot computing sells the computing power of the Q.rads to companies and research centers. The selling of these services pays for the electricity used by the Q.rads and therefore the heating that is produced. Each Q.rad continuously records its energetic (kW/h) and computing (CPU.h) consumption which enables Qarnot to bill its computing clients and refund the electricity consumed.

    • The heat is going to reach you by convection via the fans, which is a crappy way to warm yourself up.

      Convection is a crappy way to warm up? Do you just set yourself on fire when you get cold? Or do you live in a vaccuum?

      • Yes, convection is crappy because radiation heating produces a much better warmth. I've had both air-conditioning heating and radiator heating in my appartment. The hot air that the AC produces does nothing to warm your feet, rises to the top and is not as comfortable as the radiator. However, as others have noted, this might be working using liquid cooling, which is not what I had in mind when I wrote the first comment. If you get the heat from the CPU directly into some liquid, you could use it for underf

    • Crappy oil radiators seem to start at 600 W (about 6 CPUs) and better ones have a power consumption of up to 2500 W (26 CPUs).

      Space heaters don't run constantly. They heat up until they (or the room) hits a certain temperature, then shut off. So a typically 1500 W heater (designed not to trip a circuit breaker providing 15A 11V = 1650 W in the U.S.). This electric company [laneelectric.com] estimates a 1500 W heater will use 274 kWh in a month. 1 month is 730 hours, so that's just 375 W of consumption on average. In ot

    • Ever heard of liquid cooling?

  • by cheesybagel ( 670288 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2017 @06:30AM (#55186905)

    I know electricity is cheap in France because of nuclear power and all. But this is still a terrible idea. Resistive heating (which is what this is) is terribly inefficient compared with a heat pump like an air conditioner (which can in fact heat besides cool down buildings when run in reverse). It can use like 2-3x as much power to heat a building by the same amount.

    • That would be a point if they were planning to just run loops of Prime95 on these things, but that's not what they are doing. The idea is that they will also be doing real work on them at the same time, work that would be done anyway, just with the waste heat pumped out of a data centre into the atmosphere. Like this the waste heat will be used productively instead. That doesn't mean this is a good idea (maybe it is, I don't know) but it can afford to be really inefficient heating since that's just a by-pro

    • Heat pumps are only effective when there's some heat in the outside air to pump. Typically, that's down to around 10 C. Below that, the heat is so scarce it takes more energy to pump it than to generate new heat. If the outside temp drops below that, the typical window-mounted heat pump shuts off and turns on an electric heating element (a resistive heater).

      This is why the more ambitious heat pump installations use a geothermal heat sink - loops of cooling (heating) pipes buried underground. The grou
    • Resistive heating (which is what this is) is terribly inefficient compared with a heat pump like an air conditioner

      A heatpump is terribly inefficient compared to having a hot processor sitting somewhere with a cooling tower next to it.

      This isn't heatpump vs electric heating. This is heatpump vs waste heating. Anything you need to put any energy at all into will be less efficient than this system.

    • Resistive heating (which is what this is) is terribly inefficient

      It'd be a bad idea if they weren't already doing something else in the process. Like, say, computing stuff and all that.

      To put it another way: the heat is a by-product.

  • " it does raise some questions about the security... Q.rads are naturally still going to be physically unsecured as they can be in anyone's house."

    When you have to reach for physical security to try and identify a flaw, it tends to dismiss the concern altogether. A lot of hardware is vulnerable if you can get your hands on it.

    • When you have to reach for physical security to try and identify a flaw, it tends to dismiss the concern altogether. A lot of hardware is vulnerable if you can get your hands on it.

      And that is all completely irrelevant when talking about highly parallel applications with distributed workloads. Having access to the results of a single unit will likely yield you garbage data without any context for the whole.

    • There's a big difference between putting your hardware in a secured datacentre somewhere on the edge of town to putting lots of little bits of your datacentre in people's houses - people you have no relationship with, other than they're using your product.

      For all you know, your competitors could be buying your product specifically to tamper with the results of your computations to f'up you business. That isn't a concern if you use a traditional datacentre, even if it's one shared with your competitors.

    • That's pretty much exactly backwards. Without physical security, it's extremely hard to provide any further security assurances. How much money and time has Apple spent trying to lock down their custom phone designs? This company doesn't have the advantage of designing everything from the CPU to the overall system, so they're going to inevitably rely on good behavior to minimize security compromises.

  • where are the ryzen boards with ipmi and (at least the other boards can do ecc)? Intel E3 cpus suck and the e5 line is costly to get more then 4 cores.

    Also can't find 1P epyc systems anywhere yet. Where is the workstation / small server level amd server stuff??? even amd threadripper sever (less cores then epyc but higher clocks will be nice) and it makes better use of the min 16 cores for windows server core packs.

  • Those French! This would have been better for a 1 April press release.

    By the way, the energy doesn't come from the computation. It comes from your wall socket.

    This was all understood (by the French) 200 years ago: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    • As the Sci-Fi channel (now SyFy) learned, if you name your company after a word which already has common usage in the field in which you're doing business, you cannot trademark your own company's name. Which causes huge legal and marketing problems.

      And the energy does come from the computation. If you were already going to do the computation anyway, then the computation uses energy from the wall socket and produces waste heat. This idea is just finding a use for that waste heat.
  • by aheath ( 628369 ) * <adam.heath@coNETBSDmcast.net minus bsd> on Wednesday September 13, 2017 @07:42AM (#55187171)
    I used to be the sysop [ system operator ] of a BBS [ bulletin system ] back in the day [ mid eighties to early nineties ]. I met a sysop who ran a multi-line PCBoard system from the basement of his house in a Ohio. PCBoard required one CPU for two phone lines. I don't remember how many lines he had but it was an impressive number. He told me that he had enough desktop PCs in his basement to heat his house in the winter. He also had enough paid subscribers to pay for the cost of cooling his basement in the summer.
    • by sad_ ( 7868 )

      don't remind me, i had a two node bbs. with the heat of the pc, modems and hard drive i had to sleep with my windows of my little room opened in the winter (let's just not talk about the summer!).

  • by alanxyzzy ( 666696 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2017 @08:59AM (#55187497)
    BBC news article from 2015 [bbc.co.uk]
    Nerdalize [nerdalize.com]
  • This was reported on French mainstream radio back in March and April, and in the Figaro newspaper back in 2015.

    http://www.lefigaro.fr/societes/2015/10/13/20005-20151013ARTFIG00016-qarnot-computing-des-radiateurs-tres-calculateurs.php

    The only "news" in this report is the use of Ryzen CPUs.

  • I've been heating my house with AMD processors for years now.

  • by robi5 ( 1261542 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2017 @10:18AM (#55187931)

    https://tech.slashdot.org/comm... [slashdot.org]

    The current practice of directly moving lowest entropy, precious energy to the highest entropy state - heat - will be considered immoral and eventually illegal. You won't be able to buy an electrical air or water heating system without that including compute units. Why heat with a dumb resistor when you can do it equally well with a CPU/GPU which does valuable computation, for which someone else would otherwise use up an equal amount of energy.

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