Running a data center means you have to find new ways to manage heat from the servers. And French startup Carnot has standardized a process to recycle deadly heat and turn it into wealth.
While the startup has been around for a while, Karnot now wants to take it to the next level. It raised €12.5 million in funding ($13.3 million at today’s exchange rate). It negotiated a 22.5 million euro ($24 million) line of credit to fund its future projects.
Societe Generale Ventures, ADEME Investments, Demetri, Banque des Territories and Kollam Impact are participating in today’s funding round.
Karnot started with electric heaters for construction companies looking for heaters for their new buildings. The company has placed servers in those heaters, where the CPUs and other components generate heat. The rest of the heating is used as a flexible cooling system and heats residential and office buildings.
On the other hand, companies like BNP Paribas, Société Générale and 3D animation studio Illumination are renting those servers for their needs. This is an innovative way of building decentralized data centers.
“Ever since we launched Karnot 12 years ago, our goal has been to ensure the lethal heat from computers. It’s a hot topic today and it’s something that a lot of people are talking about,” co-founder and CEO Paul Benoit told me.
But the main thing about this system is that it does not need heating all year round. Carnot has found a way to counter this seasonal effect by developing a new product – scalable boiler systems.
These modules pack up to 12 servers in a standard form factor based on Open Compute Project server designs with AMD Epyc and Intel Xeon CPUs. Each module is connected to the water system. Cold water enters the module and turns into hot water. Up to 95% of computer waste heat is converted to hot water.
I asked about the seasonality of central heating boilers. And it was announced that the heating networks work all year round. For example, they produce hot water, which is always needed.
“We want to deal with the base pressure. We work all year round and the heating network relies on a sustainable source,” Benoit said. “Buildings or neighborhoods are still going to use electricity or natural gas directly for those cold winter nights.”
Qarnot can provide multiple modules and make them run in parallel. It produces more hot water and increases the overall computing power of the Qarnot platform.
“The idea is that we should be able to deploy data centers in places where people use heat. It’s a completely different approach compared to traditional data centers,” Benoit said.
Customers include social landlords, property developers, local authorities, swimming pools and heating network operators. Qarnot has already launched a pilot data center in Finland with 100 kW of computing power. It is a small data center, but the company is already looking at other locations with a computing capacity of 500 kilowatts to a few megawatts.
“With our system, we don’t need a cooling system and we can sell the heat generated from our servers. In the data center industry, you have servers that require 1 kW, they need up to 500 W in air conditioning,” Benoit said.
And this is key to understanding Carnot’s appeal. From a business perspective, Karnot uses electricity in two different ways. It runs computers and sells heat, which is good for the company’s bottom line. From an environmental perspective, Qarnot significantly improves the carbon footprint of data centers.
“We think the future looks like an abundance of mid-sized data centers. Edge computing is slowly emerging. Today, we don’t know exactly what it will look like, but we do know that hundreds of data centers will need operators with a few kilowatts of capacity,” Benoit said.
Qarnot can profoundly change the data center industry. If the company is hugely successful, there will be no reason to build buildings that house hundreds of thousands of computers.