aql’s new datacentre to super-charge the Northern Powerhouse

aql’s new datacentre is meeting the demands of supercomputing from organisations across Yorkshire following its official opening by Northern Powerhouse Minister Andrew Percy MP.


Located at a secure location on the vibrant and up and coming South Bank of Leeds, the new datacentre represents a significant investment in the digital infrastructure that will power the future growth of the city of Leeds.

aql, one of the country’s leading integrated telecommunications and data services companies, designed the facility to support the high security processing and storing of ‘big data’ for sensitive applications such as health informatics.

Not only has aql opened the new specialist facility, they have also won the contract to serve the UK’s Universities, Colleges and Teaching Hospitals via a framework contract operated by Jisc.

Jisc is a not-for-profit organisation which operates the multi-terabit ‘Janet’ network used by all universities, colleges and teaching hospitals.

aql was chosen due to its ability to meet the evolving needs of the academic community, its future-facing green energy plan, the assurances it was able to offer around data security and also their ability to support high-power supercomputing.

The University of Leeds are one of the first tenants of the new facility.

Founder and Chief Executive of aql, Adam Beaumont, said:

“Big data storage is a growing requirement for the academic community as part of University-Business research projects, so we plan to continue our investment in the city and build further facilities, as needed by Jisc and our UK academic tenants.”

The new datacentre is also designed to play an important role in Leeds’ green energy future by recycling its waste heat.

“More locally, we’re also able to interface our datacentres with the newly-planned district heating system in Leeds, so we can donate what will be megawatts of waste heat back to the city. My academic background is thermodynamics, so it’s really rewarding for me to put this to work again.  I’d really like to use some of this heat for civic purposes, for example, to create an outdoor heated pool in the heart of the new south bank.”

Northern Powerhouse Minister Andrew Percy MP officially opened the new facility on 8th December and spoke about the importance of the facility for the North of England:

“Our Northern Powerhouse Strategy sets out how we will make the North an even greater place for enterprise and innovation, with digital technology playing a key part.

“That’s why we’re supporting this new datacentre which will make Leeds a hub for digital development in the North, providing data storage for universities, businesses and millions of users across the UK.”

Chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership and former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt Hon George Osborne MP, said:

“The Northern Powerhouse Partnership’s first report identified the provision of high speed broadband as a critical priority for the region. Businesses and universities from across the North were clear - if the Northern Powerhouse is to compete with similar regions in the UK and across Europe then its internet infrastructure must be super-charged.

“I welcome aql’s ongoing investment into Leeds and the vital role the new datacentre will play in assisting academic institutions to benefit from faster, more reliable connections and also its contribution to the city’s renewable energy commitment.”

One of the leading northern facilities in big data research is based in Leeds and will be supported by the datacentre’s opening.

The Leeds Institute of Data Analytics (LIDA) is run by the University of Leeds and its director of research is Professor Sir Alex Markham:

"The new datacentre is helping to meet our ever-increasing demand for high performance computing and the associated power and cooling requirements.

“Using the Jisc high capacity network means there are no barriers to data throughput between the University and the aql facilities.

“aql is also able to provide the security assurances we need. Part of our work involves leveraging better patient outcomes from clinical data, so it's paramount that the data and the patients themselves are offered the best protection possible."

As well as datacentres, aql owns more than 10 million phone numbers and hosts tens of millions more used across the UK business community, including many blue chip brands and innovative global operators.

aql’s main business operations have centred historically on telecommunications services-as-a-platform, and providing access to the fixed and mobile networks. Whilst building its national network, aql identified a need for a major network presence in Leeds.

Following careful research, a site was chosen where it was possible to connect to every UK fibre operator.

This has been crucial to the creation of IXLeeds, the first independent internet exchange outside of London.

IXLeeds provides improved resilience, capacity, quality and driving open competition between operators and ultimately reduces end subscriber pricing.


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