Stimergy invents the data center that doubles as a “digital boiler”

October 20, 2015

What is behind your innovation?

The basic concept is not new: making use of the waste heat from a data center. Our innovation is to make the system comprehensive and synergistic. We install mini data centers in apartment buildings, with twenty to several hundred servers. Their cooling system is used to produce hot tap water for the apartments. We have dubbed this a “digital boiler.” These server installations are then aggregated into a single virtual “cloud,” accessed by our customers as a single data center.

Why produce hot tap water rather than hot water for heating?

Simply because the demand is less seasonal: people consume hot water all year round. By the way, our system can convert more than 90% of the energy consumed by servers into recoverable heat. What’s more, we can easily store the hot water in a tank. This solution allows us to operate our mini data centers 24/7.

How do you ensure the security and robustness of computer installations in an ordinary residential building?

If we consider a single mini data center, it is indeed more vulnerable than a large-scale one. We are aiming for “Tier II” classification. (Note: data centers are classified, according to their theoretical availability, into four “Tiers,” from I to IV.) However, there’s an unexpected benefit of our inherently distributed organization: we will be classified “Tier IV” as soon as we add a second site! In addition, of course, our back office allows monitoring and remote management of each digital boiler and its premises.

What is your business model?

That’s another one of our innovations. The building owner (or the operator of the existing boiler room) pays a one-time fee for “connection rights” to the boiler, calculated based on fiber-optic network access. He then benefits from free heat, with a return on investment of 4 to 6 years. As we don’t have to pay for the premises or the “cooling,” and despite higher maintenance costs, we offer access to IT resources at very competitive prices, while standing out by being much “greener” than competitors. For connoisseurs, our PUE (note: Power Usage Effectiveness, an energy efficiency indicator), measured on our prototype site, functional since September 2013, reached 1.1. The French average is around 2 and the theoretical best score is 1!

Exactly what IT services do you offer?

The basic idea is to convert our constraints into assets. Therefore, we are marketing two products. One is secure data storage, leveraging our distributed data center model: the customer’s data is distributed across multiple sites and therefore much more difficult to hack. We also offer more traditional hosting (applications, web, etc.), but in high-availability mode, supported by redundancy across multiple sites.

What stage has your project reached?

Since we started receiving support from KIC InnoEnergy, we’ve made tremendous progress in marketing our products. I started Stimergy as an engineer… today I can truly say that I am an entrepreneur. In 2015, we focused on intensively testing our pilot sites (at Jean Moulin University in Lyon and an apartment building in Grenoble), developing our product marketing and driving our round of funding. 2016 will be the year for our commercial deployment. We already have a few dozen sites planned in France and around Europe. One last thing: we are actively looking for business developers specializing in IT infrastructure and experienced Systems/Network engineers. A word to the wise…

Stimergy in brief:

Founded: 2013
Headcount: 4 (and growing)
Activity: deployment and operation of mini distributed data centers that also produce hot tap water.
Goals: 100 digital boilers in 4 years, totaling 2,000 servers and 600 kW
Current round of funding: €1.25 M

An expert’s viewpoint
Sabine Desnault, Deputy Managing Director of Stimergy and former Director of Sustainable Development and Innovation at Nexity:

“I immediately had faith in Stimergy’s visionary concept (which I discovered while sourcing startups for Nexity): it is economic, ecological, circular, and even promotes ‘data patriotism’!” The project’s values are clear: greater local energy independence, increased energy savings, greener IT. That’s why I chose to leave a comfortable position in a large group to join a startup as Deputy Managing Director, in charge of development and marketing strategy, partnerships and business development for the heat production. It was a calculated risk because Stimergy boasts innovative technology and a business model adapted to the trends in its target market: distributed, shared, and connected.”