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Kao Data: A bright future

Fri 1 Nov 2019

DCM Editor Heather Grimes pays a visit to ‘the home of innovation’

When I first heard about Kao Data, I was immediately intrigued. Born and raised in North London, the idea of a facility popping up in Harlow that boasted itself as one of the largest developments in the UK, with the potential to support an IT load of 35MW across 150,000sq ft of space, seemed unthinkable. Naturally, when I was invited to have a look around, I jumped at the chance.


The first thing that hit me was just how easy it was to find the data centre. Kao Park is situated just minutes off the M25 but the location itself wasn’t a fluke. Gerard Thibault, chief technical officer, explained that the site was selected based on a number of factors. Accessibility was crucial, the facility needed to be easy for staff and customers to reach by road, train or plane. Positioned in the heart of the London-Stansted-Cambridge corridor, with the M1, M11, M25 all in close proximity, Harlow train station just 10 minutes away by taxi, and Luton, Stansted and City. airports all in close vicinity, they were able to pinpoint the perfect spot.

The site itself also has a strong history of innovation, witnessing one of the most significant technological breakthroughs of the post-war era. Sir Charles Kao and George Hockham’s invention of fibre optic cable in 1966 changed the world of optical communications forever and paved the way for a host of modern innovation, including broadband internet. The fact that Kao London One, the first of four proposed data centres on the Kao Park site, now stands on this site assures innovation to continue for many years to come.

Sustainability and efficiency

We can all agree, there are absolutely no signs of the data centre industry slowing down, quite the opposite, which means that we all need to take steps to ensure sustainability. Kao Data’s campus has been cleverly designed from the ground up to be highly efficient, utilising 100 percent ‘freecooling’ to reduce the complexity of both the mechanical and electrical systems. This results in an ultra-low PUE even at very low customer IT utilisation.

In addition, Kao Data has secured a contract with EDF Energy to supply 100 percent renewable energy that will be cost neutral to its customers. To put this in context, when the campus is operating at full load (43.5MVA), this will effectively reduce CO2 emissions by +80,000 tons per annum, the equivalent of removing +30,000 vehicles from the road.

Of course, all of this is possible when you have some of the best minds in the industry on your side. The Kao Data management team boasts Paul Finch as interim CEO and COO, and Gerard Thibault as CTO.

Jan Daan Luycks has just stepped down as CEO, having made the decision to return to the Netherlands, but his leadership thus far has helped to set Kao Data on course for vast success. With extremely highly experienced individuals like this providing thought leadership, it’s little wonder that the facility is packed full of innovative and cutting-edge solutions that achieve efficiency and sustainability both now and for the long term.

Kao Data won the corporate social responsibility category at the Data Cloud Global Awards 2019


Last year, following intensive work with the Open Compute Project (OCP), the Kao Data London One data centre became a verified, listed Solution Provider on the OCP Marketplace. This makes it one of the
first European data centres to achieve OCP-Ready status, in fact it is the only facility in the UK to achieve this. This is testament to the team’s continual drive towards creating the most energy efficient data centre possible, a consideration that is now at the top of many customer’s wish lists.

It stands to reason that a new facility, built from the ground up, can be more energy conscious and efficient than a legacy data centre, which is definitely the case at Kao, which is achieving a PUE of sub 1.20. The policy here is to focus heavily on ‘reduce’, using smaller cables and less copper where possible, all playing into the ethos of ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’. Not only does this provide obvious environmental benefits, but the customer also benefits from reduced costs.

The future is bright

Kao Data has also just announced a new customer contract with EMBL-EBI, a not-for-profit, international research infrastructure and global leader in the  storage, analysis and dissemination of large biological datasets. This is a key development in Kao Data’s strategic goal to become the leading provider of compute capability to the UK’s Life Science community, based along the London Stansted-Cambridge corridor.

EMBL-EBI collaborates with scientist across the globe to openly share life sciences data. They carry out research and genomic sequencing in the quest to understand and cure some of the most threatening diseases. Their data is crucial and the need to team up with a facility that offers physical security and infrastructure availability to secure it was vital.

Steven Newhouse, head of technical Services, EMBL-EBI, commented: ‘Kao Data provided a thorough, detailed and consultative approach, which satisfied our technical and operational requirements. Its team also demonstrated an in-depth understanding of the needs of the life sciences. Their offer gave us the ability to quickly scale within a single campus, which is another key benefit in this data-driven environment.’

With space to grow on site into three further facilities as customer demand dictates and the ability to fine tune the design each time, the future looks very bright for Kao Data.

This article appeared in the Autumn edition of DCM Magazine. Click here to see if you qualify for a free DCM subscription.


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