NetApp’s New Global Dynamic Engineering Lab in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina – a Reflection of a “Customer-first” Culture

By Rich Clifton, NetApp

NetApp just celebrated 15 years in Research Triangle Park (RTP) with the opening of our new state-of-the-art, energy-efficient research, test and development “Global Dynamic Lab” or, “GDL-2.” The 155,000-square foot second-generation global dynamic engineering lab provides NetApp with an enhanced 24/7 shared services infrastructure for developing and testing its products and solutions against conditions that meet or exceed the extreme performance requirements of today’s enterprise data centers and complex cloud environments.

It’s my privilege to work with an incredibly gifted team of professionals – each dedicated to serving the enterprise and passionate about the future of technology – who made it happen. 

As NetApp Employee #2 in RTP, I have had the pleasure of witnessing the company’s presence here scale at an incredible rate. In 15 years we’ve gone from one person operating in a garage to over 1,600 employees operating on a site that spans well over one hundred acres. NetApp is one of the largest job creators in the state of North Carolina and we currently have three active “Job Development Investment” grants (JDIG) from the state. There is nothing quite like watching a garage-operation in RTP flourish into a powerhouse that enables global collaboration and innovation at unprecedented levels.  

We knew we had to expand our engineering labs when demand for our first global dynamic lab in RTP “GDL-1” – an Energy Star rated data center – skyrocketed. Our vision for “GDL-2” was that it would outperform GDL-1 in terms of capabilities and efficiency, and serve as the foundation for global engineering collaboration– which it does, I’m proud to say. The lab also facilitates mutual learning between our global team of NetApp employees and our customers, between our team and aspiring IT professionals from local universities, and among colleagues who work every day to embody excellence for enterprise customers. 

We want nothing less than a continuous and preemptive approach to our customers’ challenges. To ensure their success now and in the future, we anticipate their workload needs and perform extreme-scale experiments and testing.

There is a special camaraderie behind all this, from our beer-bashes to the laughs coming from our employee gym, and the cheerful groups of employee volunteers at Habitat for Humanity or the local food bank. Working here has gotten even more exciting over time and we are committed to extending that momentum via our robust recruitment and internship programs. We worked with Wake Tech Community College (WTCC) and its president, Dr. Stephen Scott, to develop curriculum for a degree program and certification in NetApp storage, and we already employ ten interns in roles that support the new facility. In addition, we recruit talent from the region’s most prestigious universities, including Duke University, the University of North Carolina, North Carolina State University, Clemson University, and Virginia Tech…it helps that the NetApp RTP office is currently ranked as the #1 “Best Place to Work” by the Triangle Business Journal, an honor I can attest is well-deserved.

GDL-2 is more than a crown jewel for NetApp – it’s a modern-day Lyceum, created by inspired technologists who are committed to customer success. It enables global collaboration and success for our customers and partners. It enhances our ability to innovate on the next generation of storage and data management technology. It is the global backbone for delivering enterprise-class products, service, support, and innovation.