25 Apr 2023

Keeping pace with data centre demand - the dawn of KLON-02 is fast approaching

When we first opened the Kao Data campus, we did so knowing that data was – and continues to be – the pulse of the digital age. We created a campus fit for purpose to meet the needs of the advanced computing workloads fuelling the UK’s digital transformation and especially those within the UK Innovation Corridor between Cambridge and London.

Our first of four data centres, KLON-01, was built around innovative design principles to create a highly resilient, sustainable and energy efficient data centre facility. As a result, we successfully developed a high-performance data centre that today delivers an excellent 1.2 power usage effectiveness (PUE) for our customers’ colocation needs, helping them to save money, and collectively reduce our energy-pull from the grid.

That tradition continues with KLON-02 (shown below) which, if development plans continue on target, will be operational in early September of this year. KLON-02 builds upon Kao Data’s high performance infrastructure with 8.8MW (which can scaled and expanded to 10MW) of OCP-Ready, DGX-Ready IT capacity and provides an ultra-energy efficient home for around 1,800 racks of IT equipment across 3,400m2 of technical space within four Technology Suites. Pleasingly, it’s clear we got many of the design decisions right with KLON-01 so we have ensured KLON-02 incorporates these. However, the world around us continues to evolve, and the technology sector is always changing, and KLON-02 has been designed to keep pace with that evolution.

Above: The development path of KLON-02, also showing how Harlow is blesses with some lovely weather!

Long before ESG became a trend, sustainability has been baked into Kao Data’s DNA. Central to the design and build of KLON-02 are the highest sustainability credentials. We’ve adopted various long established and measurable facets of sustainability that are widely recognised across engineering, construction, and property conventionalities. Beyond KLON-02 being the regeneration of a brownfield site, we are continuing to invest in the attainment of BREEAM certification. This is a broad measure considering ecology, transport plans, energy, efficiency, water usage, sustainable materials, as well as the wellbeing of our customers, colleagues and partners based at the facility. I’m delighted to say we remain on target to once again achieve an ‘Excellent’ certification.

Several industry-wide sustainability initiatives have also emerged since the design of KLON-01. The Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact (CNDCP) launched with the support of more than 100 data centre operators and trade associations across the industry, including Kao Data. A self-regulatory initiative, the CNDCP is working to ensure data centres are an integral part of the sustainable future of Europe. Working groups are defining stringent and precise targets, as well as detailed measures and auditable criteria across five focus areas – energy efficiency, carbon-free energy, water conservation, circular economy and circular energy systems. The CNDCP has already agreed to targets around PUE and water usage effectiveness (WUE), and I am pleased to say that Kao Data is outperforming in these important and transparent target sustainability areas.

With KLON-02 we are continuing to push the boundaries of what is achievable for a wholesale colocation operator. We are working towards achieving the optimum balance between PUE and WUE as well as bringing forward the carbon usage effectiveness (CUE) discussion. Kao Data is also a signatory of the iMasons Climate Accord, an industry coalition united on carbon reduction in digital infrastructure. One of the ways we’ve taken to reducing our carbon footprint is by transitioning all our backup generators to hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) - see video below, and indeed we were the first data centre operator in Europe to do this. With this change we removed an initial 45,000 litres of fossil-fuel diesel from our campus, reducing harmful emissions by up to 90% of net CO2.

Beyond sustainability drivers, we are seeing positive technical challenges driving a new evolution in data centre design. Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and virtual reality (VR) applications are pushing the limits of the thermal engineering of air-cooled microprocessor technology. As a result, the adoption of liquid cooling, which has been on many roadmaps for over a decade, is starting to be realised. Within KLON-01 we’ve been excited to test liquid cooling systems from Iceotope, one of the pioneers within this key area of IT development.

KLON-01’s infrastructure and operational capabilities were delivered with fluid cooling technologies in mind, but now as we pass the potential point of inflection, KLON-02 is being further designed to accommodate this, and our move towards hybrid power and cooling infrastructures helps this quest. We will likely see in-direct evaporative air-cooling continue to support storage and networking infrastructure, while high performance computing (HPC) and GPU accelerated computing will require a greater use of liquid cooling. Whether it is direct liquid cooling, indirect liquid cooling or immersion solutions – all of which have different attributes and a place in the market – the flexibility to apply these different hybrid engineering architectures has been at the forefront of Kao Data’s master-planning process for KLON-02.

Finally, as the data centre environment becomes more complex, so too does managing the physical space of the data centre itself. As the KLON-02 project got underway, our team had the foresight to develop and execute an industry-leading integrated management system (IMS) to underpin the various processes involved in the build. This included procurement, supplier management, health and safety, environment, etc. The importance of this system has been highlighted as we make the transition from engineering and construction to operations. By basing the system on UKAS accredited ISO standards, we ensure our data centres operate at the highest levels of rigor, allowing our customers to concentrate fully on what they’re good at.

KLON-02 has been built on all of the award-winning design and build principles of our KLON-01 facility. While my team and I are firm believers in consistency of delivery, and that ethos permeates all of our data centre projects, we have had an opportunity with KLON-02 to innovate across the construction, engineering, and technical principles of the build. As the industry evolves – and the applications driving demand continue to grow – I am confident Kao Data is well positioned to raise the bar once again for sustainable, energy efficient, industrial scale data centres, and importantly, will continue to deliver the highest levels of application availability.

Paul Finch

Paul Finch is COO at Kao Data and has had a 30-year career designing, building and operating some of the world’s finest data centres.


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