What Is a GDL and Why Do We Need Two

By Mark Skiff, Director, NetApp IT Data Center Solutions



NetApp has two Global Dynamic Labs, GDL-1 and GDL-2, at our Research Triangle Park (RTP) campus in North Carolina. Both are world class and essential to NetApp’s future success. The GDL-1 is five years old and is world-renowned. It was built in 2009 to allow NetApp to collapse a global distribution of smaller labs into one large lab within a geographic region. It offered operating economy of scale at the lowest cost-per-capacity solution.


Then this past April, our “newborn” GLD-2 was delivered and is bigger and better in many, many ways. RTP offered the lowest cost for doing business compare to other NetApp locations such as Sunnyvale (CA), Waltham (MA), Pittsburgh (PA), and Bangalore (India). In fact, some of these locations have utility costs 3 to 4 times that of RTP.


So why did we need GDL-2 five years after GDL-1? Simple. We consumed all of the physical space in GDL-1 as labs were consolidated into RTP. NetApp continues to invest heavily in new innovations for the future of storage and data management solutions. In fiscal 2014, NetApp invested $917.3 million dollars into our R&D for creating the most flexible, efficient, and highly available IT infrastructures. GDL-2 gives us the additional capacity and efficiency needed to support NetApp's continuous innovation and growth.


Another advantage of locating the GDL-2 in RTP over other options was the synergy of having GDL-1 and GDL-2 in the same physical location. By keeping the two buildings co-located, the support teams as well as the building infrastructure benefitted from staffing efficiencies.


We know that NetApp innovates in all things including the design of its GDLs. The GDL-1 was a resounding success with its first-ever Energy Star-rated data center and its lowest-cost-to-operate by a factor of three in NetApp’s portfolio of data centers. Still we found many ways to make GDL-2 better in terms of energy performance, sustainability, and user functionality. For example, we expect it to use 15-20% less energy for power and cooling. We will also no longer dispose of approximately 10,000 air filters each year as a result of a custom washable pre-filtering system. We have facilities to maximize on-site recycling of received equipment packing materials.



You might find it surprising that tours of the GDLs are one of the most frequently requested agenda items for the RTP Executive Briefing Center team. It is not unusual to have more than one customer or prospect tour the facilities each day. In fact, there have been several high profile NetApp customers who have modeled their data center designs after design concepts employed in the GDLs. In some cases the GDLs are the primary reason a prospect might come to visit NetApp. Of course, once they are here we take the opportunity to have them learn about our portfolio of storage and data management solutions.


We would love to give you a GDL tour; keep this in mind for the next time you might be in Research Triangle Park for a NetApp training session. The tours take about an hour and most who take the tour report high satisfaction.


If you want to learn more about new GDL facility but can’t make it to RTP, you can learn more by checking out the new white paper, infographic, and video. Another white paper is also available about the design and construction of our data center in Hillsboro, Oregon (US).


The NetApp on NetApp blog series features advice from subject matter experts from NetApp IT who share their real-world experiences using NetApp’s industry-leading storage solutions to support business goals. Want to view learn more about the program? Visit www.NetAppIT.com.