Gratte Brothers: Mechanical & Electrical precision
Gratte Brothers is a third-generation family business, established in 1946 that has been offering M&E solutions for over 35 years; its first data centre project dates back to 1995. During the last six years, the company has consistently delivered 30 megawatts of IT power to the mission critical construction market every year.
“We offer specialist knowledge when it comes to resilient engineering services” assures Gratte’s Engineering Director, Remi Suzan. “We've worked with DC supply chains for decades, and have good relationships with our manufacturers and specialist subcontractors. Our contract engineers, site managers, and in-house commissioning teams don't just understand how they work, but ‘why’ they need to work that way, and they bring that deep knowledge to every project.”
Gratte Brothers has worked with Ark for over a decade; an integral part of its partner ecosystem developing modular DC solutions with low energy consumption at their core. “ Together with Ark’s other partner contractors, we worked on developing a modular energy centre that could be associated with the prefabricated data centres that could then be deployed either as a single unit or as multiple units, depending on what Ark needed at the time,” confirms Suzan. “The energy centres containing the UPSs and LV panels were all provided with a cooling system designed on external fresh air. It was calculated that for 98% of the year it could operate without mechanical cooling which was only required in exceptional circumstances at high-peak summer periods.”
“Ark are way ahead of the game when it comes to sustainability,” reckons Suzan. “Their approach is more than just a green message on their website; they really mean it.” Looking to the future, Gratte is exploring the potential for gas turbine generators and hydrogen power systems (HPS) and is fully behind the increased industry focus on supporting net zero strategies. “Back in the 90s, the idea of a green data centre was almost laughable. They were built purely with speed to market in mind and about as green as a bucket of napalm. Now that we can use adiabatic fresh air cooling systems for IT equipment with heat recovery in all of our air solutions allied with the use of photovoltaic panels and LED lighting, energy efficiency has greatly improved.”
“Gratte Brothers, along with JCA, are our preferred mechanical and electrical engineering partners helping us develop improved energy centre solutions. We were also keen to modularise this process so our partners came up with a unique solution which not only utilises the data centre cooling to cool the energy centre, but also allows Ark to build the energy centre off site - improving health and safety while reducing material waste and cost. Though competitors in the market, Gratte Brothers and JCA are both family-run businesses that integrate well with Ark. They’re really adaptable and always looking to innovate. When we need to ensure speed to market, and in times of crisis like we’ve experienced during the pandemic, we rely on these partnerships to deliver safely to our customers.”
Andy Garvin, Director of Design, Construction & Operations, Ark Data Centres.
Dark Wolf: accelerating security for USAF
As a small company whose biggest customers are the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community, Dark Wolf Solutions (Dark Wolf) is a triple-threat, specializing in Cybersecurity, Software and DevOps, and Management Solutions. Dark Wolf secures and tests cloud platforms, develops and deploys applications, and offers consultancy services performing system engineering, system integration, and mission support.
The break for Dark Wolf came when the Department of Defense decided to explore software factories. Rick Tossavainen, Dark Wolf’s CEO, thinks it was an inspired path for the DoD to take. “It was a really great decision,” he says, “Let’s pull our people together as part of this digital transformation and recreate what Silicon Valley startup firms typically have. Let’s get into commercial facilities where we have open windows and big whiteboards and just promote ideation and collaboration. And it creates this collaborative environment where people start creating things much more rapidly than before.”
It has been, Tossavainen says, “amazing to watch” and has energized the Federal Contracting Sector with an influx of new talent and improved working environments that foster creativity and innovative ways of approaching traditional problems.
“We originally started working with the US Air Force about three years ago. The problem was at the time you could develop all the software you wanted but you couldn’t get it into production – you had to go through the traditional assessment and authorization process. I talked to Lauren Knausenberger and she told me about Kessel Run and what eventually came out of this was the DoD’s first continuous ATO [Authority To Operate].”
The secret to Dark Wolf’s success – and its partnerships with USAF and Space Force – lies in a client-first attitude. “We’re not looking to maximise revenue,” Tossavainen explains. “We tell all of our employees, if you’re ever faced with an issue and you don’t know how to resolve it, and one solution is better for the customer and the second is better for Dark Wolf, you always do number one. We’ve just got to take care of our customers, and I look for other partners that want to do that. And let’s work together so that we can bring them the best answer we can.”
Rapid releases and constant evolution of software are common themes among USAF’s partners. Like many firms operating in the commercial and public sector spaces, Dark Wolf leads with a DevSecOps approach.
“Failure is tolerated,” says Tossavainen. “If it’s not going the right way in three months, let’s adjust. Let’s rapidly change course. And you can tell really quickly if something’s going to be successful or not, because they’re doing deployments multiple times a day – to the customer.”