The MITRE Corporation, located in Bedford, Massachusetts, is a private not-for-profit corporation that operates multiple Federally Funded Research Development Centers (FFRDCs) that support the United States government with scientific research and analysis, development and acquisition, and systems engineering and integration. MITRE also operates an independent research program that explores new and expanded uses of technologies to solve government problems.


Over the past five years, MITRE had steadily increased its computing and storage capabilities in order to continue providing the advanced analytics and computing services needed to support their government sponsors. By 2013, their “legacy” primary data center, which used a traditional design with computer room air conditioning units blowing cool air upward through a raised floor, had reached its limits in both an overall capacity and in a thermal density of about 2.5 kW per computer server cabinet.

To support the increasing demand for higher density (15 to 30 kW per cabinet) compute/analytic services, MITRE conducted an exhaustive analysis of multiple options including moving to the cloud or a colocation facility, building a new data center, or retrofitting the existing data center. MITRE determined that it was more cost effective in both initial capital expense and long-term costs to move beyond traditional raised floor or in-row cooling and instead utilize a modular technology, using a refrigerant-based rear door active heat extractor (RDAHX) system. This would allow MITRE to adaptively retrofit the existing data center and dramatically increase its capacity, efficiency, and performance.


MITRE chose the OptiCool closed-coupled cooling system due to the energy efficiency, modularity, and incremental scalability it provided. At the same time, MITRE selected Legrand’s GX cabinets as the newstandard for their data center cabinets. The GX was the only OptiCool-Ready cabinet that did not require an adapter frame. The OptiCool System attaches directly to the GX cabinet right out of the box and saves two inches of cabinet depth, reducing cost and complexity. The Legrand/Opticool partnership provided all of the pre-engineering and component coordination which shortened the order/delivery time to MITRE.

Additionally, MITRE also chose to take the opportunity to switch to all white cabinets, providing a brighter environment and a cleaner appearance in the data center. Since Legrand and Opticool coordinate their powder coat finishes, the Legrand/OptiCool combination now gives the data center a clean and bright aesthetic.

There were some specific customizations that MITRE required that Legrand was able to provide. Due to the higher compute densities MITRE was deploying, they also required higher power densities delivered into each cabinet.

They needed to vertically mount a pair of high power cabinet distribution units (CDU) along the rear side rails. These CDUs were deeper, wider, and heavier than normal, with different mounting lugs, so Legrand designed and delivered new rear rails that accommodated the new CDU’s. Legrand® also incorporated multiple air dams (interior and exterior) to ensure maximum airflow through the OptiCool® Active Heat Extractors mounted in the rear door of the cabinet. Legrand also provided MITRE with a single part number that integrated all the parts of their GX cabinets, including the customized pieces, in order to streamline and simplify future orders. This would ensure that every cabinet matched.

Prior to the renovation, MITRE was using a suspended ladder cable tray system, but chose to make the switch to the white Cablofil® wire mesh basket system by Legrand. This gave them the flexibility they needed today, and expansion for future growth. MITRE mounted the cable trays six inches above the top of the GX cabinets using Cablofil support brackets that were designed to connect directly to the GX cabinets. This allowed MITRE to lay fiber optic cables into the trays without having the interference or cost associated with pulling cables through or around suspension rods hanging down from the ceiling. It also further contributed to the new, more modern look of the data center.


The Legrand/OptiCool solution helped the MITRE Corporation to achieve its goal of increasing the cooling and power density of the data center up to 30kW per cabinet, at a lower cost than traditional alternatives. It also serves as a case study in applying new technologies and concepts to create a next-gen data center that is efficient, functional, modular, and attractive.

Notes: Reference herein to any specific commercial entity by trade name, trademark, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by The MITRE Corporation (MITRE).