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Saudi university builds on big global demand for high-tech data centers

Top officials from Gulf Data Hub, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology and Ashi Bushnag were among top executives who attended Monday’s ground-breaking ceremony. (KAUST photo)
JEDDAH: Huge investments are being made at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) to capitalize on rising global demand for high-tech data storage.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held on Monday to mark the start of a multimillion-riyal data center project at KAUST.
“As a vendor-neutral facility, the KAUST data center will solve a range of data storage needs, while maintaining the flexibility to accommodate a wide range of future research parks and external partners,” Tarek Al-Ashram, CEO of Gulf Data Hub (GDH), a Dubai-based data center space provider, told a press conference on Monday.
“KAUST is going to be one of our major clients,” he said.
GDH is best known for the development of the Dubai Silicon Oasis data center, a world-class facility completed in 2014.
At KAUST, GDH will be the co-location center for connectivity providers to service the diverse needs of the university, its research park tenants and external customers.
Saudi Aramco, Dow Chemical and SABIC are among the prestigious tenants at the research park, which are already benefiting from the world-class talent available at KAUST, officials pointed out.
Data Hub Tech (DHT), a Saudi entity, will manage the business development, sales and operations of the new carrier- and vendor-neutral data center.
The development of the 27,600 sq. m. state-of-the-art facility comes at a critical time with sharply increased market demand for data centers to accommodate data growth, movement to the cloud, and disaster recovery demands, as well as full compliance with increased regulatory requirements.
“The trend among IT thought leaders is to lease data-center space from experts, rather than build in-house data centers,” added the CEO.
The data center will also provide value-added services to customers with its partner eco-system.
“As the nation embraces a new global era of technological progress and a reality of digital dependence, it is only fitting that it answers the call to pursue desperately needed advanced needs in these areas,” commented Nadhmi Al-Nasr, the university’s interim president, who attended the groundbreaking ceremony.
“In view of this commitment, it is fitting that KAUST take on this important project to help lead the way,” he added.
“We pride ourselves on our exceptional IT infrastructure, which supports our institutional research and innovation strategies, going beyond our campus to address some of the nation and the world’s most pressing needs,” he added.
The construction of the data center, to be operational in 2019, will be undertaken by Jeddah-based design and contracting firm Ashi Bushnag Co.
“This is a game changer for research and innovation infrastructure at KAUST,” said Jason Roos, chief information officer at KAUST.
Roos joined the university in June of 2017 with a mandate to bolster KAUST resources for a burgeoning research ecosystem as well as a booming technology and innovation cluster.
“I’m here to make sure we have the tools on hand to support our labs, our people and our partners well into the foreseeable future. With GDH, we’ve secured an essential piece of that puzzle,” said Roos.
Ahmed Sindi, CEO of Dawiyat — a subsidiary of Saudi Electricity Company​ — said that an independent international gateway is part of GDH’s business plans. “It will offer significant international fiber-optic connectivity and will be a potential site for an additional landing station for submarine cables,” he said at the press conference.

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