On The Inside Track: Building Falken Tire's Data Center

Performance tire manufacturer Falken Tire in 2012 purchased a new headquarters building in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., which was built in 2009 just as the real estate downturn hit and had since sat empty. For Joe Garcia, IT infrastructure manager for Falken Tire, it was a rare chance to completely revamp its data center.

And for Integrated Media Technologies, a North Hollywood, Calif.-based solution provider and longtime partner of Falken Tire, it was a great chance to work with its customer to design its data center from the bare concrete floor, said Mike Braico, IMT's executive vice president of sales and marketing.

[Related: Falken Tire Partner IMT Builds Data Center From Ground Up ]

"It's great to start from scratch," Braico said. "Falken Tire seized the opportunity of moving to a new building to refresh its architecture."

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The original Falken Tire data center, which used a WAN to help service the company's distribution centers, as well as accounts like Discount Tires, Pep Boys, Sears and Big-O, featured traditional open airflow with hot air blowing all over the place, Braico said. "In a 20-foot-by-20-foot space, they had serious server sprawl, and 10 different storage platforms," he said.

Garcia said the clutter in the old data center was a result of what he called "organic growth."

Whatever it was, there was certainly growth in vendors, Braico said. "They had IBM, Apple, NetApp, StorageTek, G-Tech and EMC Symmetrix storage," he said. "A lot of servers were added over time from IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Dell. Some were not utilized." When it came to finding help with the data center makeover, IMT had the inside track with Falken Tire. Garcia and his boss, Falken Tire CIO Laura Paoletti, both worked with IMT when they were employed by Disneyland.

IMT was involved early in the design of Falken Tire's new data center. It was a long process, and one that involved interviews with a lot of vendors, Braico said.

"There were a lot of decisions to make," he said. "For instance, we needed to look at what we could virtualize, and what we couldn't. Oracle on SPARC—we left that alone, but consolidated the storage."

Design features included the fire suppression system, the use of hot air containment to reduce cooling costs, and a heavy dose of server and storage consolidation, Braico said. IMT even pulled the 141,000 linear feet of Cat 6 cable with its own team, he said. Falken Tire's servers were originally replaced by four IBM BladeCenter server blades, Garcia said. Those four blades replaced about 16 physical servers, and with VMware vSphere 5 were running 40 virtual servers. A fifth IBM server blade was later added.

The only servers not consolidated were some Sun-logo'd M5000 SPARC servers running Solaris and the entire Oracle E-Business suite, Braico said.

Falken Tire has yet to take the virtual desktop step, Garcia said. "We looked at VDI, but given our growth, we're taking a breather for now."

For networking, Falken Tire went with all Cisco Catalyst new core and edge switches, Braico said. On the storage side, the customer decided to migrate to two EMC VNX 5300 arrays with a total 400 TB of capacity, Braico said. "We liked the manageability of EMC's Unisphere software," Garcia said. While one of the arrays handles the company's infrastructure, email, Oracle and other applications, the other serves the company's marketing communications department.

"Because Falken sponsors race teams, it takes a lot of videos and photos of the racers and of models," Braico said. "It's a huge amount of high-definition video and photography. So we dedicated one VNX array to the department."

Because of the advanced planning and the from-scratch design, the implementation of the new Falken Tire data center went very smoothly, Braico and Garcia said.

The actual installation of old and new equipment and migration of operations to the new data center were done during a fourday weekend, and went off as planned with only one distraction: Garcia's wife found the same weekend a good one to give birth to their baby.

"I knew it was going to happen that night," Garcia said. "But we were under a lot of pressure. I said I'll play it by ear. The call came in at 11 p.m., and my wife said she was having contractions. I told her to call when they were real. Two hours later, she called. I spent the night with her, and came back to the data center the next morning."

Since the data center was completed, IMT helped Falken Tire implement a cloud gateway appliance from Campbell, Calif.-based Panzura to allow the company to access a public cloud. Falken Tire also has added a Caterpillar generator, although it was installed by a non-IT partner.

Garcia said that IMT was indispensable when it came to implementing the new data center.

"At Falken, my IT team is the minimum size to get the daily business done," he said. "IMT was there with us for the move. I don't know how we would have done it without them. Especially with my personal issues going on at the same time."