Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Computer in the Radiator

Qarnot Computing (private) is the most recent addition to the Efficiency Group of our Mothers of Invention Index of energy technology innovators.  The company provides computing capacity to financial institutions, entertainment developers, pharmaceutical researchers and others with intense analytical requirements.  The second product in the Qarnot portfolio is called the Q-Rad and it has nothing to do with computing  -  well at least not directly.

Much is made of the need to store data in our increasingly digital world, but computing processes are also intensifying.  DreamWorks Animation has reported that every Shrek 'digital cartoon' movie took roughly twice the number of hours to design than the previous film.  In 2001, the first Shrek movie required about five million computing hours, but Shrek 2 required over 10 million hours.  The third and fourth films in the series required 20 million and 50 million hours, respectively.  The phenomenon of doubling computing requirements has been labeled ‘Shrek’s Law.’

The proliferation in computers to comply with Shrek's Law is creating an energy problem.  Many organizations maintain ‘server farms’ or they contract with companies like Qarnot to provide computing capacity.  Thousands of computers rowed up together generate quite a bit of heat and demand excellent air conditioning to keep things running smoothly.  For every 100 watts required to run a computer, about 50 watts is needed to cool them.

The smart people at Qarnot have found a solution for their computing customers  -  harness the heat from the computers and repurpose it.  Qarnot distributes its computers throughout buildings to be used as radiators or heat sources.  The company has designed a ‘digital heater’ that on the outside looks like a radiator, but inside is a multi-processor HPC server.  An illustration of the Q-Rad can be seen on Qarnot’s corporate website.  Cost savings from reduced cooling costs are passed along to Qarnot’s computing customers and lucking apartment dwellers get free heat.

Qarnot Founder and CEO, Paul Benoit, participated earlier this week in the Europlace International Forum.  Not surprisingly, his presentation was followed by numerous questions about data security, temperature controls and seasonal flexibility.  The company has found viable solutions for all these concerns.  The company has landed some interesting customers, including PNB Paribas.

Qarnot is still a relatively small company with just over $1.0 million in sales per year.  In my view, this is a company well worth watching.  If the Shrek Law holds, we can expect ever increasing pressure to solve the twin problems of energy consumption and heat generation that accompany computers.   Qarnot has a good head start with one novel solution.

 

Neither the author of the Small Cap Strategist web log, Crystal Equity Research nor its affiliates have a beneficial interest in the companies mentioned herein.  Qarnot Computing is included in the Efficiency Group of the Mothers of Invention Index.

 

1 comment:

Mary Ann Callahan said...

Well said, Debra! I was also impressed with Paul's presentation about Qarnot providing free heating to all those homes in Paris. Also I learned that Qarnot is providing computing resources for a medical researcher's work on Cystic Fibrosis. Paul sent me a note with this further background:

Concerning our participation in CFTR research, it was a collaboration with Dr Brice Hoffmann. We provided him support through our computing capacity.
You'll find attached a poster he presented about his work (awarded recently at the 9th European Cystic Fibrosis Young Investigator meeting : http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Brice_Hoffmann/info).

This was also relayed in several media last year (Impact Journalism Day):
http://ijd.sparknews.com/qrad/
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201409200063
http://www.lemonde.fr/impact-journalism-day/article/2014/09/22/le-q-rad-un-processeur-au-poele_4492052_3432283.html
http://derstandard.at/2000005650108/Ein-wirklich-aussergewoehnliches-Heizungssystem
http://www.tagesanzeiger.ch/extern/storytelling/ijd/
http://www.laregione.ch/articolo/il-riscaldamento-un-supercomputer/1207
http://www.lastampa.it/2014/09/20/cultura/speciali/impact-journalism/2014/i-computer-nella-nuvola-che-vendono-calcoli-e-regalano-riscaldamento-rkXPQBOFVzEWoGAIvlfI1H/pagina.html