K2 Data Centres – Making Data Modular
K2’s unique approach to modular construction is revolutionising the implementation of hyper-scale infrastructure assets.
As online retail, digitalisation and the Internet of Things become ever more in demand, so grows the need for robust, large-scale data infrastructure to support it. K2 Data Centres was founded in 2017 as a subsidiary of Singapore’s Kuok Group to meet that need as an international developer, owner, and operator of hyper-scale digital infrastructure assets.
The company has become a specialist in providing the critical digital infrastructure to leading technology companies, laying the foundations for the internet, cloud services and even as-yet undeveloped digital solutions.
It has built a proven track record of world-leading levels of service, and is equipped to act as a technically focused, long-term partner to its customers, providing peace of mind to those investing in significant physical network, storage, and computing resources to serve millions of users of online and digital tools.
“We are serving hyper-scale customers who may not be able to act as quickly as we do because they cannot move forward without a lot of approvals on internal issues, but we are a privately-owned company,” explains Dr Fred Ho, Chief Technical Officer of K2. “We can make decisions quickly. When we receive the signal from our user when can act on it immediately.”
That ability to act quickly is more important than ever at a time when demand for data centres is rapidly on the increase.
“The most important challenge is the demand on the data centre,” Ho tells us. “Power needs have gone from 4kw to 12kw. We’ve introduced liquid-cooled solutions. The density of the data centre is increasing dramatically as we design data centres that can fulfil customer requirements.”
As demand for data infrastructure skyrockets, so does the need to build and implement it rapidly. A common solution to this challenge is modular construction. As Ho explains it, “They put the equipment in a box, bring it on-site and put the data centre together like Lego, dividing up the construction process between the building and the data infrastructure itself.”
While this method of building certainly creates efficiencies, even here a great deal of the construction process has to take place on-site, and completing that construction while commissioning and connecting the data infrastructure requires a huge amount of labour.
K2’s approach is different.
“We’re not just doing modular construction, but modular infrastructure,” Ho tells us. “Our ‘Lego pieces’, which we call Power Pods, are prefabricated structures with the complete infrastructure already installed. It is almost plug-and-play to put together, saving time in construction and commissioning.”
While traditional modular construction still requires the building and its power generation capabilities to be constructed and commissioned, K2’s modular infrastructure approach means its standalone power pod solutions can be assembled and commissioned in parallel with any construction work.
“We can run the infrastructure project outside the building, completely in island mode, and fully test it while waiting for the power shell and construction project to be completed,” Ho says. “It means we can construct a hyper-scale project within one year and have it fully operational.”
The People Behind Data
Ho has two decades of consultancy experience behind him, and so has an intuitive grasp of how mission-critical people are to any data centre project.
“We created our own design and IP for our power pod,” Ho says. “We used consultants to change details of the design to suit different countries but based on our own standard design and IP.”
But while everyone is working from the same blueprint, Ho encourages innovation across the board.
“Innovation is important for me, and we work differently from traditional data centre companies. K2 Data Centres under my leadership is about innovation. We introduce any efficiencies we can find to bring down the total power consumption,” Ho points out.
One such centre for innovation is K2 Renewable Energy, investing in green energy sources to power K2’s data infrastructure.
“We connect our data centres up to our renewable centres to make them greener and more sustainable for our hyper-scale customers,” Ho says.
This focus on innovation has proven to be a valuable draw for new talent.
“Because of our innovation requirement, a lot of the younger generation want to work with K2. We have developed a team, driven by our K2 modular infrastructure vision. For a lot of the young generation and traditional consultant engineers that is attractive,” Ho points out. “Combined with how well we treat our staff, it makes an appealing prospect for prospective hires.”
It is an innovation-led approach that led to the development of K2’s original power pods. That design has been improved. The capacity of one of the current generation of power pods is equivalent to four of the original power pods combined.
“The power density becomes higher and higher while the power pod becomes smaller and smaller. We improve our cooling technology, and we squeeze more power into a smaller footprint,” Ho says.
K2 is driving innovation in the cross-section of renewable energy and data infrastructure, recently winning the DCS award for data centre innovation ability of the year thanks to its power pod design and its modular infrastructure.
It is an approach K2 is taking worldwide, and when we speak to Ho, he is looking to expand the firm’s operations.
“In the future, we want to develop more data centres in Ireland, in Europe,” Ho tells us. “We want to explore potential business in Indonesia, and Malaysia, and also we will continue to see the opportunities in Singapore, Hong Kong and China.”
Dublin in Ireland, in particular, is an exciting market for K2, as a rapidly growing data hub for the whole of Europe.
“15% of the whole island’s power consumption is for data centres. Data centres need a lot of power consumption and making that sustainable is a charge for everyone on the market,” Ho insists. “What we want to do next is minimise the cooling capacity required using renewable energy to cool the data centres. The total cost of ownership needs to be lower.”
The market’s demand for data facilities, particularly at the hyper-scale, is only set to grow. K2 is ensuring that demand can be met quickly, efficiently, and sustainably.