Kao Data Campus engineered for efficiency and resilience

    KAO Data Campus
    KAO Data Campus

    Louise Frampton recently visited the Kao Data Campus to see first-hand the last stages of construction of Kao’s DC1 data centre, and discovered how it has already gained recognition for its energy efficiency.

    Innovative approaches to energy efficiency and resilience are at the heart of the design of Kao Data’s new data campus being built in Harlow, while human error is also being ‘engineered out’ through a focus on simplifying infrastructure. These design principles will be key to the company’s operating strategy when the first data centre is completed this month.

    The Kao Data Campus is named after Nobel Prize winner Charles Kao who, 50 years ago, co-discovered the technology behind fibre optic cable while working for Standard Telephone Laboratories (later Nortel). Once the project is finally completed, the campus will comprise four data centres with four ‘technology suites’, designed over three floors, totalling approximately 150,000 sq ft of technical space. Each technology suite will be capable of supporting a 2175kW IT load totalling an 8.7MW IT load across each building.

    At launch, one technology suite capable of delivering 2.2MW with immediate capacity of 442 racks up to 58U will be available.

    “Each rack, as standard, will support 5.5KW – but we can quite comfortably go to 10KW, or even 20KW. This means we can accommodate low, medium and high-density solutions and cover a broad range of market requirements,” says Kao Data chief operating officer Paul Finch.

    Gaining entry into the data centre market in this region has been a major undertaking – availability of land and power is a major challenge, according to Finch. “New wholesale data centres do not come on to the market very often and the last one to serve the London market was around nine years ago. The barriers to entry are now so great that there may not be another wholesale sector business in the London market in the future,” he comments.

    This has made the company’s vision for sustainability and energy efficiency particularly crucial to the success of the project. The KAO Data campus has been awarded the Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) certification – a recognised sustainability assessment method for infrastructure and buildings.

    As planning consent is becoming so difficult to obtain, BREEAM is becoming a must, says Gerard Thibault, Kao Data’s chief technical officer.

    “Planning authorities, as well as customers, want to see evidence of sustainability, and a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating was awarded for the energy efficiency of the design. Our customers are increasingly developing their own corporate and social responsibility statements but it is also important for us to focus on this from a commercial perspective. One way in which we are doing this is through the cooling design,” he explains.

    Cool solution

    Having evaluated developments in efficient and resilient forms of cooling, during the past decade, Thibault and Finch have drawn on their collective industry experience to implement N+1 Indirect Evaporative Cooling (IEC) units. The pair have successfully delivered free-cooling schemes that operate without any mechanical refrigeration in Dublin, London and now Harlow.

    This latest innovative free-cooling solution has been designed to provide highly efficient climate control, while offering a resilient back-up capability in the unlikely scenario of a unit failure.

    “The idea that the evaporative cooling process requires huge amounts of water is a myth,” comments Thibault. “Water is only used in the cooling process when the ambient temperature outside is 17° and upwards. With a UK average temperature of 12°, there is only a narrow window of three months of the year where water may be needed and, even on these days, water is not required all day long. From a sustainability perspective, water is one of the fully recyclable energy forms. It really is a renewable source of energy.”

    According to Thibault, the units will result in increased reliability, higher energy efficiency, increased sustainability and lower operating costs over the life-cycle of the facility. He adds that the infrastructure around the cooling solution will also use less energy.

    “Other approaches could only deliver three buildings for the same amount of power, but, because we are so energy efficient (due to the evaporative cooling and transformerless UPS), we have been able to use our power utility supply far more efficiently and ultimately deliver the fourth building,” Finch adds. He comments that there is an industry misconception that being environmentally friendly and sustainable increases costs.

    “We have proven, with the development of this scheme, that we can actually reduce costs. We are building a capex spend that is significantly less than some of our peers in the market.

    “That manifests itself in terms of the pricing we are able to offer customers. From an opex perspective, we have lower energy costs; by delivering a facility that is energy efficient, customers’ bills will ultimately be reduced. In addition, as we do not have any mechanical refrigeration, the overall maintenance costs will be reduced over the lifecycle of the data centre,” says Finch.

    Energy efficiency also means Kao Data has been able to specify smaller generator sizes. From a sustainability perspective, the project has been able to use less copper for the cables and less steel for the generators.

    The company is trying to reduce the material content of the data centre and claims that the cost benefit will be passed on to the customer as the value of the data centre will be improved.

    Putting less consumables into building the data centre has other benefits in terms of maintenance, according to Kao Data CEO Jan Daan Luycks. “As there are less components, there is less that can go wrong, so there are increased levels of reliability and availability, which is core to customer requirements,” he comments.

    Energy procurement

    Kao Data is also focusing on its green credentials through its energy procurement strategy. Finch explains: “We offer the ability to procure energy generated from 100% renewable sources.

    “Rather than installing wind turbines or photovoltaic solutions on the site, which isn’t our core business, we can procure energy through companies that are experts in delivering green energy. This is an option that will be made available to our customers.”


    The electrical infrastructure is another innovative feature of the data centre design, according to Thibault: “Power and cooling are the two key areas for data centres where availability is critical – they are both equally important and go hand in hand.

    “In the past, data centres operated by using ‘system plus system’ delivery of UPS power. If the ‘A’ system goes down, you always have the ‘B’ system. Statistically, it is very unlikely that there will be failure of both at the same time but it can happen, of course.

    “This means for a 10MW data centre, you would have to install around 20MW of UPS power to deliver a ‘system plus system’ approach. At Kao Data we have opted for a distributed redundant system where we use a ‘two for three’ arrangement. This means you can reduce unused UPS capacity by one-third.

    “There are other companies that use the distributed redundant approach but they tend to use systems that are much more complex, which is harder to manage from a load balance point of view.

    “In my view, it also introduces jeopardy into the operation. Instead, we have chosen to strike a balance by adopting a commercially sensible approach, reducing power usage, while using simple systems, so that SLAs can be maintained.”

    The distributed redundant system combines the benefits of providing complete redundancy to each and every rack position without the full capital cost or operating expenses traditionally seen in data centres.

    To help reduce the risk of human error, the three distributed redundant systems from 11kV to rack are each coloured strikingly differently – Feed A is Amber, Feed B is Blue and Feed C is Cyan. 

    “By integrating colours into the operational strategy and combining it with our strong emphasis and investment in training techniques, both our customers and Kao Data are positioned for the best possible outcomes,” says Finch.

    “It also means that the people working on the electrical system have a strong visual understanding to help them avoid mistakes and eliminate a common cause of unnecessary downtime.”

    The data centre is designed around a fully concurrently maintainable arrangement, which Kao claims would be in line with a Tier III design (if certified).

    “While we have not specifically made this an Uptime Institute certified facility, we designed it with this in mind so that, if any of our customers want that certification, we can go back retrospectively and go through the certification process with confidence,” says Thibault.

    “Within the technology suites, there are no CRAC units and we have kept it very simple in terms of the way power is distributed, with no PDUs,” adds Finch.

    “In theory, there is no need for any operational maintenance personnel to go into the white space itself. Everything is located outside of the customer’s demise. We have consciously tried to engineer out human factor errors through the simplicity of the design.”


    StruxureWare PowerSCADA Expert monitoring and control software for electrical distribution networks

    To effectively manage the data centre’s critical infrastructure and ensure continued efficiency, Kao Data has chosen to standardise on Schneider Electric’s StruxureWare for Data Centers DCIM suite.

    One of the reasons for opting for StruxureWare was the fact that it enables power management software (PMS), energy management software (EMS) and building management software (BMS) to be integrated with a DCIM overlay to provide data centre customers with a range of services from IT asset management to power use monitoring and intelligence down to branch circuits.

    Using StruxureWare for Data Centers, Kao Data has implemented a solution which eliminates integration costs and time, reduces risk, and simplifies commissioning and operations. Kao Data will also be creating a tenant portal, to enable customers to see what is going on in their data centre at any time. Customers will have complete transparency around their operations – from power consumed, to the environmental conditions.

    Predictions for the future

    In the future, Kao Data predicts that there will be a more ‘granular approach’ to resilience in the data centre market.

    “We could see the use of smaller UPS to simply support the most critical applications; there may be a move towards ‘engineering down’ the resilience for equipment that can be allowed to go off, for a short period, towards being smarter on how power is managed,” comments Thibault. “In the past, the data centre sector has tended to use a blanket approach; in some instances, facilities have been using 2N UPS and even 2N cooling infrastructure to ensure availability but this is very expensive and not all of the equipment will need this – particularly as we see virtualisation and the triangulation of mirrored sites [ie the use of three sites to allow instant failover]… In the future, we will need to think about how we streamline infrastructure moving forward.”

    Luycks predicts that, in the future,  the redundancy will not be in the data centre itself; it will be in the software. “In the event of a failure, operations will simply move to another data centre.

    “This means that, in the future, you will probably see data centres without gen sets. Of course, it will depend on the industry sector – this approach won’t be for everyone,” he concludes.


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