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Designing a data centre - as easy as CFD?

Kao Data harnesses Future Facilities’ 6SigmaDCX product suite to make informed decisions around the design, implementation and operations of its ambitious data center campus.

Kao Data is partnering with Future Facilities to use CFD analysis via its 6SigmaDCX product suite. This has helped make informed decisions around the design, implementation and operations of KDL1 – the UK’s first 100% free-cooling wholesale colocation facility – as well as the roll out of the rest of the Harlow-based campus. The Future Facilities solution allows Kao Data to create a digital twin – a virtual replica – of its cutting-edge data center to use as a decision making platform.

The new Kao Data facility is located within the iconic London-Stansted-Cambridge “UK Innovation Corridor” and was required to support high performance computing (HPC) and intensive artificial intelligence (AI), without any mechanical refrigeration. Future Facilities worked with JCA Engineering to help Kao Data meet these ambitious specifications. This focused on assessing the viability of an Indirect Evaporative Cooling (IEC) system; a greener, more efficient and cost-effective approach where water evaporation is used in place of mechanical systems to cool the air.

Using a digital twin and CFD simulation to assess IEC viability

To enable Kao Data to make informed decisions about the IEC solution, Future Facilities modeled the external and internal environment of the colocation facility. Supported by Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations, the team were able to predict the performance of the IEC, and make recommendations for the different phases of implementation. This enabled them to troubleshoot any potential problems and ensure optimal operation performance of the external and internal environments of the data center campus.

A digital twin allows you to identify operational risks that would typically never be discovered until after deployment. For example, during simulations, Future Facilities validated thermal performance under normal operating conditions. These simulations revealed that at full load occupancy, and with a prevailing south westerly wind condition, humidity at the external air stream intakes was raised, and the wet bulb temperature was above acceptable limits. As a result, improvements to the design were made in advance of construction to keep efficiency high and operational risks at a minimum. CFD was also used to ensure that the design would cope in a failure scenario – especially in terms of the IT equipment located near the failed cooling unit.

Commenting on the partnership, Paul Finch, Chief Operating Officer, Kao Data said: “We chose to work with Future Facilities due to its industry-leading reputation. Being able to rely on its next-generation, highly accurate, CFD modeling reinforced our technical capabilities, and gave us the confidence that both our facilities’ design and choice of power and HVAC infrastructure were operating as optimally as possible. This helped to manage risk prior to the commitment of a multimillion-pound capital project and was ultimately pivotal in enabling us to design and build one of the most sustainable and energy efficient facilities in the UK.”

Mark Seymour, Chief Technology Officer, Future Facilities added: “Working with the design contractor JCA and Kao Data on this carefully thought-out, prestigious project has been a privilege for Future Facilities. By using a digital twin and CFD-based simulations, we have been able to not only help deliver an exceptional wholesale colocation environment, but also contribute to a new standard for environmental sustainability for such data centers in the UK.”

Paul Finch continued: “Future Facilities’ CFD Analysis has helped us refine our decision-making process around the provision of cooling infrastructure and more recently was crucial in the deployment of NVIDIA’s Cambridge-1 supercomputer.”

Looking forward

KDL1’s first Technology Suites TS01 and TS02 are now fully operational, however, the need for external and internal CFD simulation continues as build out of the remaining future two Technology Suites TS03 and TS04 – which will be brought online by the end of the year – progresses. Its Digital Twin, made up of the 6SigmaDCX product suite, will continue to enable Kao Data to prove it can meet stringent SLAs for key high-density clients to enable it to make its colocation facility the UK’s go-to place for HPC and AI high density compute. The two companies will continue to work together to ensure Kao Data remains confident that its data centers are functioning at optimum efficiency.

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