Center of Excellence

Dell EMC, Durham Cloud Data Center
Durham, North Carolina

With their existing data center in Westborough rapidly running out of capacity, Dell EMC began planning for the development of a new energy-efficient, virtual data center, strategically aligned to the company’s journey toward delivery of IT-as-a-service and the development of its first domestic Center of Excellence.

SMMA provided a flexible and scalable design solution to transform an existing 450,000-square-foot warehouse into a highly-efficient, virtualized showcase, setting the foundation for a sustainable approach to Dell's journey to the private cloud. 

The state-of-the-art facility consolidates all regional Dell EMC research, development, and proof-of-concept labs; offers consulting, development, technical services; and showcases Dell EMC and partner solutions.

Data Center Transformation, from Westborough to Durham:
  • 100% Virtual Servers, Up from Only 32% Virtual
  • 271 Watts Saved per Server by Leveraging Virtualization
  • Reduced Power per TB by 73%
  • Saved 1.2 Megawatts of Power Demand 

The greenest building is the one you never need to build in the first place. Dell EMC and the design team would have had an easier time achieving sustainable design goals by starting new, but this was the more holistic and responsible decision.


Electrically, one of our biggest challenges was providing Dell EMC with a design that minimized their up-front costs and provided for planned future growth. SMMA modeled the electrical design such that additional unit substations with large transformers could be inserted into the system in back-of-house electrical rooms when the load dictates, leaving the electrical infrastructure in the labs and data centers intact. The goal was reducing the downtime—which results in revenue loss—required for additional power increases, while eliminating disturbances to the built environment. Further, to increase efficiency through a reduced number of electrical transformations, the unit substations used on this project stepped down the medium voltage from the utility directly to the voltage needed at the rack level. 


The team made the strategic decision to reuse an existing building, to both avoid the carbon footprint impact of a greenfield project and effectively minimize the environmental effect of the project as a whole. Existing loading dock door openings were converted into louvers serving the air-intake plenums, and certain structural elements—including the roof, steel framing, curtain wall, and slab—were retained. The project maintained all existing green space and located all site utilities within the former delivery bays.


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, providing free cooling (chillers off) for over 5,500 hours annually; and high-efficiency humidification in the form of a non-fossil-fuel-based high-pressure reverse osmosis system.

We also increased air temperatures delivered to the server inlets to as high as 75 degrees—a significant jump compared to the former Westborough data center temperature of 58 degrees—which contributed to the total hours of free cooling provided and the reduction of mechanical cooling required.


One inch of rain on the 450,000-square-foot roof results in 280,000 gallons for potential water reuse. Phases One and Two of the project included development of a rainwater collection system that supports specific domestic water fixtures throughout the building—resulting in a 40% decrease of potable water usage. Additional water conservation of 38% is achieved through the use of low-flow water closets, waterless urinals, and no permanent irrigation system.


The team employed a holistic approach to the mechanical design, resulting in 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 through the whitespace.

Other design solutions included: High-performance floor supply grilles; perforated plates, to uniformly distribute airflow; minimized differential pressure between under-floor and data center; and air-handling units that utilize a multiple fan-array approach, lowering connected motor horsepower.


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, we incorporated: 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; dedicated substation built onsite, with 100-megawatt capacity; and continuous strut assembly, to allow buss duct and cable tray installation wherever it is needed and to support a future hot-aisle containment solution.

Information Technology

With this new data center in place and establishing IT-as-a-service, Dell EMC has been able to optimize the firm’s IT resources and deliver in days to minutes what previously took weeks to months. Thus far, the overall IT demand to the business has grown by 97%—at the same time, power consumption has been reduced by 46%. Through virtualization, the team sustained 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 Peirce, Dell EMC Vice President of Global IT Private Cloud Infrastructure and Services


Phases One and Two were completed under budget and ahead of schedule utilizing a hybrid Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) methodology, with construction partner DPR Construction. The project has saved $104.5 million through capital expenditure avoidance, lowered energy costs, and increased space efficiencies. It has also reduced energy use by 34% and shrunk its carbon footprint by nearly 100 million pounds of CO2. The project has realized $660,000 in energy rebates from the local utility company as a result of its energy-efficient design.


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