Center of Excellence

Dell EMC, Durham Cloud Data Center
Durham, North Carolina

After Dell EMC acquired a pre-engineered warehouse spanning a massive 450,000 sf, they began the relocation of their over-capacity data center in Westborough, MA into a newly developed, energy efficient, and virtual state-of-the-art facility. Aptly named the North American Center of Excellence, the Tier III data center is designed to support Dell EMC’s pursuit of delivering IT as a service (ITaaS).

SMMA provided a flexible and scalable design solution to transform the existing structure: currently, it consolidates all regional Dell EMC research, development, and proof-of-concept labs, supports the client’s consulting, development, and technical services, and showcases Dell EMC and partner solutions.

Additionally, the move boasts of several sustainable feats:
  • Increasing virtual servers from 32% to 100%
  • Leveraging virtualization to save 271 Watts per server
  • Reducing power per TB by 73%
  • Saving 1.2 megawatts of power demand 


An Electrical Transformation

The design team needed to provide Dell EMC with a solution that minimized their up-front costs and supported future growth. To achieve this, the center’s electrical systems were modeled such that additional unit substations with large transformers could be inserted into the system as needed through back-of-house electrical rooms, leaving the electrical infrastructure in the labs and data centers intact. The goal was to reduce the downtime required for additional power increases and to eliminate disturbances to the built environment, thus preventing revenue loss. Further increasing efficiency by reducing the number of electrical transformations, unit substations used on this project stepped down the medium voltage from the utility directly to the voltage needed at the rack level.

Strategic Reuse

The team decided to reuse an existing building to both avoid the carbon footprint implications of a greenfield project and effectively minimize the holistic environmental impacts of the project. Existing loading dock door openings were converted into louvers to serve the air-intake plenums, while certain structural elements — including the roof, steel framing, curtain wall, and slab — were retained. The project preserved all existing green space and located all site utilities within the former delivery bays.

Energy Efficiencies

The data center currently meets a stringent Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) objective of 1.3, resulting in a net decrease of 1,175 kW of connected load. Energy-efficient cooling measures include cold aisle containment, air-intake plenums at the perimeter of the building that provide free cooling for over 5,500 hours annually, and high-efficiency humidification in the form of a non-fossil-fuel-based high pressure reverse osmosis system. Air temperatures delivered to the server inlets were also increased to as high as 75 degrees — a significant jump compared to the former Westborough data center temperature of 58 degrees — which contributes to the total hours of free cooling provided and the reduction of required mechanical cooling.

Water Conservation Efforts

One inch of rain on the center’s roof results in 280,000 gallons for potential water reuse.Phases I and II of the project included the development of a rainwater collection system that supports specific domestic water fixtures throughout the building. This system achieves a 40% decrease of potable water usage and an additional water conservation of 38% through its low-flow water closets, waterless urinals, and the lack of a permanent irrigation system.

Increasing Airflow

The team employed a holistic approach to the mechanical design and produced a highly efficient airflow system. From the conceptual stages of the project, the design focused on air movement throughout the building. Architectural components, such as large vertical and horizontal plenums, function as extensions of the mechanical system and provide unobstructed airflow paths throughout the space. Other design solutions included high-performance floor supply grilles, perforated plates to uniformly distribute airflow, minimized differential pressure between the under-floor and data center, and air-handling units that utilize a multiple fan-array approach to lower connected motor horsepower.

Future Adaptability

Recognizing that equipment migration and advances in technology will happen over time, the infrastructure was designed to accommodate new technologies on an as-needed basis. To this end, the following was implemented:

  • Space to accommodate future electrical substations and mechanical chiller modules to meet increased power and cooling demands
  • Chilled water piping to provide supplemental cooling solutions for addressing potential “hot spots” within the data center spaces
  • A dedicated substation built onsite with 100-megawatt capacity
  • Continuous strut assembly to allow buss duct and cable tray installation wherever needed, and to support a future hot-aisle containment solution

Information Technology

With a new data center in place, Dell EMC has been able to leverage their IT resources to deliver in days to minutes what previously took weeks to months. The overall IT demand for the business has grown by 97% while simultaneously reducing their power consumption by 46%. Through virtualization, the team sustained the demand of new servers by 67% and reduced watts-per-server by an average of 271 W.

The new Center of Excellence gives us a solid foundation for the future and accelerates Dell EMC’s own journey to the cloud. It gives us the flexibility to offer IT as a Service to Dell EMC business units in a cost-effective way, and puts us in prime position to share what truly are best practices with our customers.

- Jon Pierce, Dell EMC Vice President of Global IT Private Cloud Infrastructure and Services

Project Outcomes

Phases One and Two of the project were completed under budget and ahead of schedule utilizing a hybrid Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) methodology with construction partner DPR Construction. They have saved $104.5 million through capital expenditure avoidance, lowered energy costs, and increased space efficiencies. They also reduced energy use by 34% and shrunk Dell EMC’s carbon footprint by nearly 100 million pounds of CO2. Overall, the project has also realized $660,000 in energy rebates from the local utility company due to its energy-efficient design. Phase III of the project, which is in progress as a study and conceptual design, seeks to further increase Dell EMC’s rack power densities to meet the needs of next generation server equipment loads.