Falken Tire Partner IMT Builds Data Center From Ground Up

Performance Data Center For Performance Tire Maker

A good deal on a new building led to a perfect time for Falken Tire to completely overhaul its data center with an eye on cutting costs and making the company more environmentally aware.

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 the building had since sat empty.

CRN visited the new data center for a look at how it was designed and configured. To start this behind-the-scenes look at Falken Tire's new data center, just turn the page.

Mike And Joe

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 (left), IMT's executive vice president of sales and marketing.

For Joe Garcia (right), IT infrastructure manager for Falken Tire, it was a rare chance to completely revamp its data center.

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 Disney.

It was also initially scary, Garcia said. "We were short of space," he said. "We were sitting on top of each other. In fact, when Laura called me in for an interview, I saw the data center and initially said no."

New Building, New Opportunity

The new data center now sits inside Falken Tire's new headquarters building (pictured).

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 a 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.

The old building, in Fontana, Calif., is still used as a warehouse and for storing the company's Lemans racing cars and drifting cars.

Solving Server Sprawl

A priority in the new data center was to cut through the server sprawl that had built up over time, Braico said.

"A lot of servers were added over time from IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Dell," he said. "Some were not utilized."

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.

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."

Some Things Never Change

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

For networking, Falken Tire went with all Cisco Catalyst new core and edge switches, Braico said.

Solving Storage Sprawl

Typical of many companies, Falken Tire's data center over time became home to a hodgepodge of storage vendors, Braico said. "They had IBM, Apple, NetApp, StorageTek, G-Tech and EMC Symmetrix storage," he said.

Falken Tire 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.

Model Storage Deployment

For a company like Falken Tire, success depends on marketing, which, in turn, depends on getting the word out about its sponsorships in the racing and drifting worlds. And that, in turn, depends on having a solid storage system to make those images available.

"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."

The EMC VNX array is a huge advancement from Falken Tire's previous marketing IT equipment, which was based in large part on USB drives sitting under a desk.

What To Do With Those Old Drives?

Once the EMC VNX was installed, much of Falken Tire's older storage equipment became redundant.

At least some of the now-redundant storage lived on, at least for a while, as a way to keep this door open.

Keeping Data Backed Up

Falken Tire did keep its StorageTek SL500 tape libraries for data backups. When the libraries were first moved to the new data center, they were configured with LTO-4 tape drives.

The company had considered upgrading the tape libraries to LTO-6. However, since the data center was completed, IMT has helped Falken Tire implement a cloud gateway appliance from Campbell, Calif.-based Panzura to allow the company to access a public cloud.

Keeping The Data Center Cool

The original Falken Tire data center was designed with traditional open airflow that kept hot air blowing all over the place, Braico said.

IMT replaced it with a cooling solution based on the APC InfraStruXure platform, including APC's racks, UPS and cooling equipment. The cooling system was designed with N+1 redundancy so that the loss of a cooling device would not be an issue, Braico said.

Garcia said the average room temperature is set for 68 degrees, with an alarm set to go off if the temperature exceeds 80 degrees. "It has never gone off," he said.

Ready For Emergencies

Design features of the data center included a 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.

The data center has a Fenwal FM-200 fire-suppression system, as well as "sniffers" around the room looking for anything that indicates a smoldering fire.

Designed For Efficiency

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

Braico said the Falken Tire data center was designed for efficiency, with hot air blowing into a single aisle. "We slashed electricity costs by 30 percent," he said.

IMT designs, builds and deploys data center infrastructures for clients around the country, Braico said. In addition to its headquarters north of Los Angeles, IMT has offices in Dallas, New York and San Jose, Calif.

The company also helps customers with data center upgrades, and has a practice focusing specifically on video infrastructures for media companies, he said.