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14 September, 2020 - 12:53 By News Desk

EMBL-EBI embraces HPC powerhouse at Kao Data campus

In the heart of the UK Innovation Corridor, a hop, skip and a jump away from Cambridge, lies the future of High Performance Computing (HPC) – otherwise known as the Kao Data campus.

High Performance Computing is not your regular, everyday computing. It is the domain of very high powered, incredibly fast servers, often working in parallel to solve complex mathematical problems, analyse massive datasets or replicate the flow of dynamic substances like air and water using binary code.

From sequencing genomes, to algorithmic financial trading and through to aircraft and chassis design – high performance computing underpins innovation and industry.

Located on the very site where Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Sir Charles Kao made his pioneering discovery of the fibre optic cable over 50 years ago (laying the groundwork for high-speed data communication in the Information Age), Kao Data’s award-winning development is also breaking new ground in technical excellence and best-in-class design, and creating an industry blueprint for highly specialised HPC data centres.

Powered by 100 per cent renewable energy and boasting the greenest possible credentials, Kao Data’s innovative operation and footprint is every bit as clean as its bleeding edge design. 

In recent years, the exponential increase in data creation and cloud computing has inevitably lead to a shift in compute from in-house data centre infrastructure to the cloud and third party providers like Kao Data, who ‘co-locate’ a number of clients’ servers and processors together. 

However, Kao Data’s best-in-class design is far removed from the original legacy data centres built since the 1990’s. Offering a choice of sustainable and efficient computing offerings – including unparalleled HPC provision, scalability and a customisable Built-to-Suit service as well as co-location – Kao Data’s specialist data centre is focused on providing industrial-scale, high-density solutions for advanced HPC, intensive AI and machine learning workloads, far above and beyond what ordinary data centres around London can and are offering.

Spencer Lamb, Kao Data’s vice-president, is already a 25-year veteran of this relatively ‘new data centre sector’ and has witnessed first-hand the evolution and massive growth of the data centre industry.

He says: “As businesses have become more and more reliant on technology – predominantly because of the need to have systems with 100 per cent uptime, 24/7/365 – the demand for more robust environments to house their systems has grown, and lead to them outsourcing to organisations like Kao Data.

“But HPC is a very specialised form of compute. It doesn’t sit well in legacy data centres, which don’t have the infrastructure, the cooling ability or abundant power supply to look after, never mind cope with, high density computing requirements.

“Kao Data, however, has more than the required infrastructure and capabilities to provide what organisations working with HPC need.”

It is no coincidence that Kao Data has chosen to develop its hyperscale-inspired campus within one of the world’s premier data centre hubs, where there is a prevalence of HPC shared between London’s FinTech companies and the plethora of life science laboratories, pharma companies, research institutes and high-capacity AI/tech startups in and around Cambridge.

And, having already secured one significant Cambridge-based tenant with substantial power and storage needs – EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) on the Wellcome Genome campus – Kao Data has its eye on netting others. 

Spencer Lamb, Kao Data’s vice-president

Spencer continues: “The High Performance Computing world is no longer the sole domain of the research institutions and large universities. There is now a burgeoning demand from the artificial intelligence world, and the FinTechs are also taking advantage of technology to do what they do better, and faster, escalating a technology arms race between them.

“With the solutions we are providing, we can create exciting opportunities for the more established research organisations to enhance their own offerings – to produce even more research and make more use of Government or charitable funding. 

“And we can be of equal benefit to the science, tech and AI startups born in and around Cambridge, which, historically, have been somewhat compromised regarding access to technology resources and facilities such as ours. We want to be part of their journey and success too.”

While hyperscale cloud operators such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft have tended to dominate the colocation deployments of UK data centre business, Kao Data is focused on the academic/research facilities and smaller AI startups with disproportionately high power requirements.

Spencer says: “While rival data centres are shaping their business around the hyperscale tenants, we are primarily focused on organisations that are buying power-hungry new specialised tech which they can’t facilitate or house within their own environment. 

“At Kao Data we put our effort and energy into resolving the challenges for the businesses and data-hungry academic institutions – and, to that end, we have developed and evolved our data centre configuration specifically for those systems to sit within, in a cost-effective and reliable fashion.”

But there is no doubt that with the advent of the hyperscalers coming into the market in 2015, we have seen exponential growth in data centres. The amount of data centre capacity in the UK is not only very significant now – unsurprisingly, it is also attracting a lot of interest from more traditional investors such as Legal & General who, together with Goldacre/Noe Group, have invested heavily in Kao Data.

Securely backed by these heavyweights, the Kao Data campus remains the only wholly UK-backed wholesale data centre in the UK, as well as one of the UK’s largest campus development.

With a four-strong leadership team at the Kao Data helm, which additionally includes chairman and IT industry veteran Craig Wilson, Interim CEO and COO Paul Finch, and Chief Technical Officer Gerard Thibault, they share more than 100 years of combined data centre experience and unmatched credentials.

This, coupled with the technical excellence of the Kao Data development, must surely make for a sure-fire recipe for success.

When fully completed, the +£230m, 15-acre, ultra-low PUE development – comprising four, OCP-Ready®, carrier-neutral data centre buildings – will support an ITE load of over 40MW, across 150,000 sq ft of technical space. All powered by 100 per cent renewable energy. 
Opened in 2018, Kao Data London One (KDL1) is already fully operational, providing 8.8MW across 4 x 2.2MW Technology Suites. It is also BREEAM certified ‘excellent’, reinforcing its sustainability credentials. (BREEAM is the world’s leading sustainability assessment method for master-planning projects, infrastructure and buildings.)

The campus’ remaining three data centre buildings (KDL2, KDL3 and KDL4) will provide a further 35.2MW capacity between them. The spec encompasses:- 

  • Award-winning, highest-grade data centre 
  • Military-grade secure campus
  • 150,000 sq ft of technical space
  • 30MW planning-approved capacity across three future data centres
  • OCP-Ready® certified facility and solution provider
  • Specialist high density HPC & AI provision
  • Proven 100 per cent uptime track record
  • ISO 27001, 9001, 45001 and 14001 certified, and PCI DSS compliant
  • Flexible range of colocation solutions – Cell, Pod, Suite options
  • Range of power densities up to 80kW per rack
  • ISO 27001, 9001, 45001 and 14001 certified, and PCI DSS compliant
  • 43.5MVA supplied from UK National Grid substation
  • Dedicated on-site primary substation (33kV/11kV)
  • Minimum N+1 level of resilience and redundancy throughout
  • UPS backed with A, B, and C power feeds
  • On-Net providers include EU Networks, BT Openreach, Ai Networks, Linx and CenturyLink
  • Access to the Joint Academic Network (JANET)
  • Fully diverse fibre paths to the data centre
  • Dark fibre on-site

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