Leeds, UK, based aql was founded in 1998. Starting in the domain registry business in the dotcom boom, the company soon recognised the growing importance of IP based communications services, building up a strong wholesale messaging and network capability that was quickly recognised and utilised by a number of key carriers and service providers. This legacy has given aql a distinct networking and interconnectivity orientation unusual in smaller regional data centre operators.
aql continues to offer a range of wholesale messaging services covering mobile, voice and fax. From providing POPs for carriers and a range of messaging platforms it was short step to providing retail co-location facilities in data centres. While aql boasts a strong customer list of well-known national enterprises, it has a clear focus on companies based in the North of England or focused on bringing business to the Leeds area that have significant communications and IT security and governance requirements.
aql’s commitment to security is such that its information security management system is certified to the international ISO 27001 standard. In addition to this, all key aql staff hold British Government NSP (National Security Vetting) clearance and Metropolitan Police Non-Police Personnel Vetting (NPPV) certificates
aql owns and operates 3 data centres all based in the middle of Leeds. A 4th data centre is due to come on stream in 2016 and additionally it has points of presence in London Dockland data centres run by Telecity and Telehouse.
Existing data centres have been located in old buildings, the most iconic of which is the Salem Chapel which has been innovatively converted with a large auditorium sitting over the ground floor server rooms from where David Cameron and George Osborne announced their Northern Powerhouse strategy.
aql makes much of its Leeds city centre location based right at the point where all the fibre links enter the city. That proximity to connectivity, a clear understanding of the need to develop a dense network of carriers and their championing and hosting of the independent Leeds IX internet exchange enables them to avoid having to go through London to provide low latency solutions and also drives down the cost of data to London.
aql has strong and visible commitment to ensuring the most efficient and green use of energy. Its city centre location has enabled it to be part of the district heating grid whereby excess heat from operations is drawn off to heat local homes and its energy contracts are based on green sources.
It also works closely with Leeds University’s School of Mechanical Engineering, undertaking research into both air and liquid cooling technologies.
aql is a private limited company. It owns the land on which its datacentres run, has no bank loans and is debt free according to CEO, Dr Adam Beaumont. Recurring service charges from its network business help to fund future expansion. This includes the recent acquisition of a landmark industrial building in Leeds which will be used to manage future growth requirements.
aql sees itself as a wholesale business that always uses service providers to deliver end customer solutions. This prevents channel conflict and maintains a policy of strict neutrality in dealings with partners. In co-location terms aql is a retail, rather than co-location provider. But al is determined not to vertically integrate hosting and managed services into the offerings.
For a relatively small regional player it has an impressive list of Tier 1 and Tier 2 carriers with POPs in their data centres. That carrier neutrality and density has also attracted a significant number of large enterprises like Boots and Deutsche Bank, alongside public sector organisations like the Metropolitan Police, and they host the JANET educational network.
Regional Focus and Commitment with added Connectivity
aql has combined a passion and commitment for Leeds and the North with a sophisticated, carrier neutral network and exchange strategy that has resulted in a differentiated offering which appears to be driving strong growth and protects it from the sort of price pressures many local co-location providers have been facing. For customers with sophisticated networking requirements, a need for strong security and IT governance and who don’t want, or need to route data traffic through London aql appears to offer a good fit.