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Nerdalize — Providing cloud services that are almost CO2-neutral

Current datacenters are huge energy wasters. Not only is a lot of energy is spent on the building and infrastructure, computer servers produce a lot of heat, therefore a lot of energy is needed to cool down all the servers in the datacenter. Although datacenters are getting more efficient in their energy use, the increasing cloud market makes that the datacenter industry now emits more CO2 than the aviation industry and this share is only getting larger. That is why we at Nerdalize are working hard on a sustainable alternative to current cloud solutions.

That all sounds pretty great, but what is the actual effect of our approach on the environment? That is what we asked Bas Minnema. During his graduation project for Science, Business & Innovation at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, he made an assessment of the total CO2 emissions in the life cycle of a Nerdalize server-heater.


Our Life Cycle Assessment: 97.1% lower CO2 emissions than an average datacenter

Bas compared the CO2 our solution produces throughout its life cycle with the CO2 emissions during the life cycle that of an average datacenter. The results of this analyses were beyond our expectations. He found that our CO2 emissions are even 97.1% lower than a datacenter of average size and efficiency in the Netherlands! The Nerdalize cloud solution even produces markedly less CO2 emissions than high efficiency datacenters. Nerdalize server-heaters reuse the residual heat produced by computations for heating and/or producing hot water.1 This eliminates the energy needed for cooling. Since the server-heaters are placed in households, there is no energy wasted on building and maintaining the datacenter and its infrastructure.

The diagram below shows the results of the amount of CO2 emissions per year for the five different scenarios. In this assessment, the amount of CO2 emissions is calculated per kilowatt-hour of power used for cloud services, also called kWh of useful IT power.

Comparison of yearly emissions

In this assessment, the life cycle CO2 emissions of a traditional datacenter and a high efficiency datacenter were calculated and compared to those of the Nerdalize server-heaters. For the Nerdalize server-heater, three scenarios are shown, which will show the impact of each factor. Each scenario is described below:

A traditional datacenter

Traditional datacenters have a lot of energy overhead on cooling and building.

A high efficiency datacenter

High efficiency datacenters use cooling techniques that require less energy, have better infrastructures and contain servers that are more durable and waste less energy.

A Nerdalize server-header

Nerdalize server-heaters need much less energy for the embodiment, since no datacenter is required. Additionally they don’t waste energy on cooling of the servers. In the first scenario, the server-heater runs on average grid mix electricity which is mainly generated by burning fossil fuels.

A Nerdalize server-header running on sustainable electricity

For the second scenario of the Nerdalize server-heater, the system runs on sustainable electricity, which is generated by durable energy sources. For the third scenario of the Nerdalize server-heater, the system also runs on sustainable electricity. Additionally, this scenario takes the gas savings into account, which will result in a negative amount of CO2! Assuming the residual heat replaces the heat generated by fossil fuels.

The emissions in the life cycle of a datacenter can be divided into 2 categories: embodied and operational. Embodied emissions are caused by the production, transportation and disposal of the IT equipment, infrastructure and shell of the datacenter; operational emissions are caused by energy use.

Why the Nerdalize cloud services have very low CO2 emissions

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a method to assess the impact on the environment of a certain product, with all stages in its life considered. This includes the raw material extraction, manufacturing, transport, use and end of life treatment. By calculating the CO2 emissions caused during a life cycle, we can make a comparison of the total impact of different products.

The results of this assessment show that the Nerdalize server-heaters produce much less CO2 over their life cycle than even a high efficiency datacenter. High efficiency datacenters already produce almost 50% less CO2 than the average datacenter. The Nerdalize server-heaters take this a big step further.

The general life cycle
Why Nerdalize is greener in all cases

1. We use the residual heat to replace fossil-generated heat

Since Nerdalize server-heaters reuse the residual heat produced by computations for heating and/or producing hot water1, the emissions that are prevented this way, are subtracted from the total in the third scenario of the Nerdalize server-heater. Normally, natural gas would have been used to provide this heat.

2. We use much less energy

The system already uses much less energy during the production and manufacturing phase of the life cycle. Next to that, the system itself during the product use phase is very energy efficient. Therefore the Nerdalize server-heaters have a very low PUE and SPUE.

3. We use sustainable energy

Normally, natural gas would have been used to provide heat in households, which contains a high amount of CO2. Because of our collaboration with Eneco, the server-heaters run on Eneco electricity, which is from durable energy sources. This type of energy contains much less CO2, which reduces the amount of our CO2 emissions even more.

4. We use much less material

For the life cycle assessment of the Nerdalize server-heater, the components which are taken into account are the servers, a boiler and all other components that are needed to make it work. Compared to the datacenters, we do not need to build a complete building with large installations, only small modules forming a distributed datacenter.

We want to make sustainable computing power an affordable commodity, heat homes for free and drastically reduce emissions!

The cloud services provided by Nerdalize server-heaters have drastically lower CO2 emissions than average datacenters. Using Eneco electricity, the Nerdalize server-heaters are even close to being CO2-neutral. The use of cloud services is growing rapidly, which means the share in global greenhouse gas emissions are getting larger every day. Therefore, a sustainable alternative to current cloud solutions is more than needed.

Are you interested in reducing CO2 emissions on your cloud? Get in touch and we will give you more information about our sustainable solution!

  1. In contrast with the earlier piloted eRadiator, the latest design of the server-heater, uses its waste heat to produce hot water. By connecting our server-heater to a boiler, we store the hot water until needed and increase efficient use of the heat.  2

About our CO2 savingsheater
Liesanne Wieleman
posted this May 15

Empowering biologists with SeDEx

Data and computations play an increasingly important role in many research fields. From chemistry and physics to economics, a lot of data is being generated these days, and increasingly sophisticated algorithms are being developed to make better use of that data.

Erik Schultes, scientific project lead on FAIR data at the Dutch TechCenter for Life Sciences (DTL), saw the same developments within the field of biology. On the one hand, a lot of data on protein sequence data is already available. On the other hand, over many decades numerous algorithms have been developed that use these data to predict the complex folded structures of proteins. Unfortunately, these two developments, data versus algorithm, remain largely isolated from each other, because biologists are not trained in the necessary computer science skills to put them into practice.

Digital image of a protein

SeDEx, a data platform for biologists without IT training

Large-scale protein structure prediction is still very difficult for the biologist without a lot of IT training. To fill in the knowledge gap between the known protein sequences and the unknown protein structures, Erik came up with the idea for the Sequenomics Data Exchange (SeDEx); a platform to make it easier for biologists to combine all this available data with state-of-the-art algorithms for structure prediction.

With the SeDEx, we need to do a lot of computations. It’s very parallelized but it is a lot. Nerdalize solves this problem for the SeDEx. It makes scalable compute resources easily available to biologists without IT training.

Erik Schultes

Converting protein sequence to structure
SeDEx fills in the knowledge gap between protein sequences and structures

The goal of SeDEx is to help biologists obtain predicted structures by making sequence data, structure prediction software, and compute resources easy to use through a simple graphical user interface. Nerdalize provides the computing power behind the SeDEx, making automatic structure prediction easy and affordable. The SeDEx is also a FAIR publication platform, allowing biologists to easily share their findings with the community. Applications of the SeDEx are found throughout basic research, biomedicine, nanotechnology, and industrial enzyme engineering.

The SeDEx opens a whole new window for the biologist, to the enormous universe of possible protein sequences and structures, even those yet to be discovered by life. A great use for our compute capacity! At Nerdalize we are very enthusiastic to be working together with DTL on making the SeDEx a reality.

Now that our compute jobs are so big, we needed to find a solution. Working together with Nerdalize has been a real breakthrough for us.

Erik Schultes
About our customers
Maaike Stoops
posted this March 27

How winning sustainable & innovation awards helped us

Accenture Innovation Award

Over the last years, we have won several great competitions on sustainability and innovation, such as the Accenture Innovation Award and the EIT Innovation Award. We have worked very hard and are happy to call ourselves winners of these competitions.

In 2015 we won the Accenture Innovation Award. According to the jury, Nerdalize was the most promising innovation on the theme of Clean & Affordable Energy. Central to this topic was the conversion of CO2 into valuable products, changing the energy supply and other energy saving measures.

We have faith in the concept of Nerdalize.

The Jury (Accenture Innovation Award 2015)

Doen Energie (S)Topper competition

In 2016, we have won the Doen Energie (S)Topper competition. We are proud that we have won the title ‘Zero Hero’. According to the jury, we think big and our sustainable solution will tackle two problems at the same time: heating homes with sustainable energy and reducing the energy demand of the datacenters, one of the largest consumers of fossil fuels.

EIT Innovation Award

Winning the EIT Innovation Award in 2016, made us ready to scale-up production. During the accelerator programme, we have built a network, gained access to several customers and potential partners, and seen our system piloted in five homes.

EIT Awards winners are Europe’s top change makers. We are proud to empower these talents to turn their amazing ideas into products and services that create new companies and jobs for Europe.

Martin Kern (EIT Interim Director)

By winning these awards we have met some awesome people, who gave us advice, connected us with the right people or supported us financially. Additionally, these awards have motivated us to continue our business and make it successful. We are very grateful for this experience. Because of these events, we are now growing into a successful company and close to providing CO2 neutral cloud services. Thank you!

About our company
Liesanne Wieleman
posted this March 16

Congratulations Marinus with your graduation!

Marinus

We are very happy to share that Marinus graduated in Mechanical Engineering today with an 8.1! Marinus joined Nerdalize as a working student in our first hour and has been helping us a lot with the work he did for his graduation project over the last six months. After a well-deserved holiday, Marinus will now join our team as a full-time hardware engineer.

Congrats Marinus! We are very proud of the result and extremely happy that you will stay part of the Nerdalize team!

About our team
Posted February 2

Mark Rutte raises a glass to the renewed collaboration between Nerdalize and Eneco

Speech by CEO Boaz Leupe

Following a successful pilot, Nerdalize and sustainable energy company Eneco are expanding their collaboration to build a cloud that provides sustainable residual heat to Dutch homes. This was announced by Boaz Leupe, CEO of Nerdalize, and Elmer de Boer, Manager Ideation at Eneco, in the presence of prime minister Mark Rutte during his visit to start-up incubator and home of Nerdalize YES!Delft.

The cloud exists in expensive datacenters that hog energy. Nerdalize has developed a product that allows the residual heat of a cloud server to directly contribute to the heating system of a home at no cost, allowing both homeowners and professional cloud users to save money and energy. Nerdalize cloud users may easily save 50% on their cloud costs as they no longer pay for a cooled and expensive datacenter.

Raising a glass Speech by prime minister Mark Rutte

Through the collaboration between Eneco and Nerdalize, we can together offer companies a sustainable and affordable alternative to traditional cloud providers and simultaneously provide residual heat to homes. At Nerdalize we are therefore very excited about expanding the collaboration. Eneco, as a large and sustainable energy company, has a shared vision, large customer base and the efficiencies of scale to make our dream reality; making Nerdalize the greenest and one of the biggest cloud providers by providing hundreds of thousands of homes with sustainable server-heat. Nerdalize and Eneco will soon announce more information about this fantastic, next step.

About our company
Posted December 7, 2016

Stimulating green energy production, while saving energy!

Green energy is the future, that is one thing we are sure about at Nerdalize. So why is not all land filled with windmills and are all rooftops covered with solar panels? Many people are still cautious when it comes to investing in these green technologies. Luckily, Solar Monkey found a way to minimize this worry. They are able to accurately calculate the expected energy production of solar panels on your roof. With a 100% guarantee! Together with Readaar we are working to realize their ambition of a sustainable future.

As part of the YES!Delft incubator and as a Climate-KIC alumni we often connect with people from the most brilliant startups. This is especially exciting when it enables us to work together in a way that is both beneficial for the startups, as well as the environment. This happened when we ran into Sven Briels and Matthijs van Til from Readaar.

Readaar developed a smart way to analyze aerial imagery and LiDAR data (height information) in order to find different kinds of information on rooftops. The YES!Delft startup, Solar Monkey uses this data to design the best configuration for solar panel installations. A problem both companies run into is that the coordinates of the height information don’t match the coordinates of the aerial imagery. Readaar has built an algorithm to match the aerial imagery with the LiDAR data.

LiDAR data Aerial imagery

These algorithms are very compute intensive, thereby requiring vast amounts of computing power. Readaar was looking for a cloud provider for doing their analysis. Of course the well-known cloud computing platforms of Google and AWS are available to them, but instead they chose to use our servers. We offered a more affordable solution, but Readaar was especially charmed by our sustainable approach.

At Nerdalize we provide a sustainable solution for cloud computing. We use the same energy twice, once for computing and once for heating. Computer servers produce a lot of heat, so traditional data centers use energy to cool their servers. Instead we place our servers into homes. This way we use the heat that is generated by useful computations where it is needed. Companies use our server-heaters for many different kinds of computations. This time we use them to analyze aerial images in order to estimate the energy production of solar panels. Next time, who knows? We are very excited to work together with Readaar and Solar Monkey in stimulating green energy production, while saving energy with our servers!

About our customers
Liesanne Wieleman
posted this November 25, 2016

Geological computations, easily deployed in the cloud!

Devices and organisations gather more and more data. When applied right, this data can be very useful in industries like science and engineering. Large amounts of data are used for quantitative analyses, real-time monitoring and simulations. Geology is a good example of an industry where large amounts of data are processed. For example, GPS coordinates, LiDAR data and satellite images. Engineers keep their computers running overnight and during the weekends hoping that their computation will be done when they return to their desk the next morning.

The cloud is a great solution for these engineers and researchers, giving them access to scale up their processes to unlimited amounts of computing power. But how do these engineers and researchers, that are not trained in IT, get access to cloud resources? The Nerdalize cloud platform makes this easy for them!

Yesterday, I presented the Nerdalize Cloud Platform to a group of geologists at GeoBuzz. Engineers and researchers can use our platform to deploy large computations to cloud resources, without needing the help of their IT department!

The presentation was received with a lot of enthusiasm. The nice reactions afterwards ensured me that what we learned from user tests during the development of the platform really appeals to a large target group. Motivating us to keep developing a platform that can easily be used by everybody with a need for processing large amounts of data!

Maaike pitching Nerdalize at GeoBuzz

About our customerscompany
Maaike Stoops
posted this November 24, 2016

On the move

What started with three people pursuing a (rather ambitious) plan, already developed into a team of 16 working on hardware development, software development, business development, operations, sales, marketing, finance and HR. A bigger team requires a bigger office. So after extending our current office a number of times it is now officially time to take a bigger step. Last Friday we moved into our new office!

No worries, we are still based at YES!Delft, we just moved into their new building where we have more space, a better view and a bigger workshop. So everything we need to work even harder on building our sustainable cloud!

Curious? Feel free to come by and check out our new spot!

About our teamcompany
Maaike Stoops
posted this November 14, 2016

Heating houses even more efficiently with computing power

Together with students Computer Science from Delft University of Technology (DUT), Nerdalize has developed a way to save even more energy!

Computer servers produce a lot of heat. In data centers, where a lot of servers are stacked together, it additionally costs a lot of energy to cool all these servers. In order to solve this, Nerdalize doesn’t place the computer servers in data centers, but in houses. Therefore the heat that comes off the server can be used to heat these houses. This way homeowners save up to 300 euros a year on heating and 3 tons of CO2 is saved per household per year. Additionally, companies save up 30 to 50% on cloud costs, because they do not have to pay for the overhead costs of building a data center.

This approach already causes a huge decrease in the energy usage. But it could be done even more efficient, is what DUT students Robert Carosi and Boris Mattijssen thought. For their bachelor final project in Computer Science, Robert and Boris found a way to utilize the heat that comes off the computer servers. Instead of using just any server to do a computation, they developed a way to always use the computer server in the house that needs the heat the most. For example in a place where it is a bit colder that day.

How does this work? Instead of doing one complete computation on one heater, this computation is cut up into smaller pieces. This way the computation can be divided over multiple houses. The pieces can then be computed in the house where the temperature is the lowest. When the wanted temperature is reached, the computation can be transferred to a house where the heat is still desired. This makes that the energy will always be used to its full potential.

Last Friday, the first of July 2016, Robert and Boris presented their project to family and friends. For their solution, they made smart use of Kubernetes, an open source system initiated by Google. This makes that not only energy can be saved, but our computer servers can run even faster and more efficient. A smart technological solution with a positive impact on the environment, that is what we love at Nerdalize!

About our heaterteam
Maaike Stoops
posted this July 1, 2016

The installation of a server heater, the Eneco eRadiator, in the living rooms of five families at different locations in the Netherlands this month, marks the start of an exclusive field test. The test is in line with Eneco’s strategy to develop into an energy partner of its customers by introducing innovative sustainable services.

Computer servers that perform calculations generate a lot of heat. By installing these servers in people’s homes instead of centralised large data centres, the generated heat can be used to heat these homes at no cost. The purpose of the test is to collect information on customer experience and to identify possible areas of improvement of the eRadiator.

This is the first time the design radiator with built-in server is installed in ordinary households. The servers shall perform complex calculations for a variety of companies and knowledge institutes, such as new medicine-related research for Leiden University Medical Centre.The Eneco eRadiator was developed by Nerdalize, a company that was founded in 2013 by the three initiators of the idea with the aim to further develop the server heater concept. Nerdalize is located at YES!Delft, Europe’s largest tech-incubator. Eneco believes that the eRadiator offers a range of possibilities and has acquired an interest in the start-up.

A study carried out in cooperation with the Leiden Institute of Advanced Computing Science shows that companies and institutions that require a lot of processing power can reduce their costs in the area of accommodation and cooling of datacentres by 30 to 55% with the concept developed by Nerdalize. There are also environmental benefits, because the same energy is used for two different purposes: computation and heating.

It will take at the least to the end of the year to complete the field test. Eneco and Nerdalize will use the results to determine if and how the eRadiator can be made available to a larger number of customers. Interested parties who wish to stay informed of the latest developments can register by sending an email to eRadiator@eneco.com.

eRadiator