Toy Maker is No Longer Boxed in by Computer & Data Center Limitations
Neither the old midrange computers nor the cramped data room that housed them could support the new business intelligence (BI), data warehouse and collaboration solutions that Radio Flyer wanted to install. The maker of well-known red wagons, plus scooters, tricycles, rocking horses and other toys, needed a host system with more computing power – but one that wouldn’t require more electrical power or physical space. Satisfying these conflicting goals was no child’s play.
“The area they used for a data center literally left us very little room to work with,” said Merrimac Solutions’ John Quinn, who was called in to help solve the puzzle. “There was no raised floor, there was no remaining rack space, they wheeled in a portable cooler to get the temperature down, and more power was needed to run additional hardware. Plus, they were operating in a green screen environment from an old IBM iSeries host that couldn’t take on the new business intelligence solution.”
Budget was also a limitation. Even if space was available, Radio Flyer couldn’t simply buy all the hardware needed to run the new BI and document management systems. The company needed more than a system upgrade, it needed a strategy.
“Virtualization was a very good option for this customer,” said Quinn. “They did not have a virtual infrastructure before. By virtualizing, they could get the most out of the space and computing resources that were available.
“This was the first time we used virtualization,” said Radio Flyer Director of Information Technology Tom Cesario. “We knew virtualization was the right approach, but we hadn’t used it before. Merrimac Solutions made going from physical to virtual servers routine. They were very helpful during the transition, made sure everything went correctly, and did a great job with knowledge transfer so we could run the new systems ourselves.”
Merrimac set a foundation to host the new systems by installing new IBM 3550 multi-processor servers and Microsoft Windows 2008, SQL Server 2008, SharePoint Services and Performance Point. This infrastructure was then virtualized using VMware Virtual Infrastructure 3, which was upgraded to vSphere when it came out a few years later. The new servers were clustered and VMware’s High Availability module was included to raise the level of business continuity. Systems are backed up using Symantec Backup Exec agents and stored on an IBM DS4700 SAN, which was also part of the infrastructure upgrade.
The virtual infrastructure easily accommodates Radio Flyer’s new business intelligence and data warehouse applications. The company has gone from working from green screens with no real-time data to having management dashboards that sales, managerial and executive staff can access through the Web to get up-to-date information about order status and sales trends.
Radio Flyer would have needed five or six additional servers – and much more power and rack space – to run its new systems and the additional local area networking ports, fibre channel fabric ports and upgraded SAN storage. However, because of Merrimac’s recommendations for virtualization and equipment, the implementation was accomplished with just three new physical servers, which host 13 virtual servers
As a result, Radio Flyer is no longer boxed in by its computing and space limitations, and has information tools that provide greater insight about how to fill a customer’s toy box.
“Virtualization allowed us to invest wisely and gives us an infrastructure that lets us do more with less. We have a lot more flexibility for how we run things, and we’ve cut down our equipment and energy costs,” said Cesario. “Merrimac’s hands-on approach was a big help. They really got involved with this project, walked us through the new systems, and made sure everything was right.”
- Servers to host new business intelligence and collaboration solutons the company wanted to install.
- Limited rack space available in data center.
- Insufficient space, power and cooling to support data center expansion.
- Limited budget.
- Implement a virtual infrastructure to fully leverage computing resources.
- Upgrade server hardware and software to provide compatibility with desired BI and document management systems.
The Merrimac Advantage:
- “We knew virtualization was the right approach, but we hadn’t used it before. Merrimac Solutions made going from physical to virtual servers routine. They were very helpful during the transition, made sure everything went correctly, and did a great job with knowledge transfer so we could run the new systems ourselves.”