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


A good deal on a new building led to a great 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 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."

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."