Tech Tour: Behind The Scenes At Dell EMC's Storage Manufacturing Facility
An Inside Look
CRN received an exclusive look inside Dell EMC’s storage manufacturing facility in Franklin, Mass., which consists of 300,000 square feet of labs, testing and assembly for products such as VxBlock, VxRack, VMAX and XtremIO.
The approximately 20-year-old facility is one of Dell EMC’s largest storage manufacturing sites in America and houses technicians, production associates, and process and software engineers who work on some of the most popular storage offerings in the world. Malcom Osborne, director of operations, who has been with Dell EMC and formerly EMC for more than two decades, provided CRN access to the manufacturing site. Here’s what we saw on our tour.
The facility houses several large chambers used to test hardware components such as solid state drives, I/O boards, modules and storage processors. The chambers conduct tests around vibrations, voltage and temperature changes ranging from 14 degrees to 130 degrees. "You can take something that might fail two years from now and you pull it out, or you find the defect that the supplier may have missed that we can go search for. We do all that testing here," said Osborne. The entire process typically takes 24 to 48 hours.
Engineers set up all the components inside the hyper-converged VxBlocks including hardware, network and fiber cabling and products like Cisco's Unified Computing System (UCS). The team builds the system exactly how the customer will utilize it inside its own data center. "They have all those boxes of components in front of them and elevate those to where they need to be with each one of the racks," said Osborne. "Some of that stuff is standard like your Cisco UCS -- we are typically always going to put that on the bottom, there's hardware you put in a specific order -- but then there's the customization part of it. They'll actually modify the build depending on what each customer wants."
The facility is full of specialized equipment like X-ray machines and ball grid array (BGA) tools for installing chips to fix and replace faulty components. "We can do circuit board repairs, install chips. We have an X-ray machine to look at all the details and rework we did to make sure we're good to go. So when that rework is done, we will actually be able to process those right back into our environment stress screening test again and validate that everything is functioning properly."
If there's any type of failure, the facility has a debug team on site to figure out what the issue is and conduct repairs. "Whether it's a chip or a circuit that was broken, these people are going to recreate temperature testing and run their own diagnostic test to try to re-create the failure to fix it," said Osborne. "A lot of our suppliers are from around the world, so if a part has an issue, we don't have to send it all the way back to China, for example."
Engineering teams conduct rigorous testing on the Dell EMC XtremIO all-flash array storage components such as verification testing prior to the final configuration test. In May, the company unleashed the second-generation XtremIO X2 high-end all-flash block storage platform.
Every VxBlock and VxRack unit gets powered up before being shipped. "My production team does some preliminary testing first to make sure everything is functioning, all the cable connections are correct, everything's good -- then we hand it off to the engineering team that does all the software downloads," said Osborne.