infoTECH Spotlight Magazine

infoTECH Magazine

January 01, 2011

Leading Online Automotive Parts Retailer Quickly Revs Up its Network

By TMCnet Special Guest
Ken Won, Director of Product Marketing for Force10 Networks

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 2011 issue of InfoTECH SPOTLIGHT

As a leading online provider of automotive aftermarket parts and accessories, U.S. Auto Parts Network, Inc. became somewhat of a victim of its own success. Established in 1995, the company provides consumers a wide variety of automotive-related products through its network of Web sites that are mapped by a proprietary product database to product applications based on vehicle makes, models and years.

As the business continued to grow rapidly, its core network slowed, causing unproductive latency and in many cases – complete downtime. In addition to lost revenue from customers unable to access the Web site to make orders, the lack of network performance and reliability hindered employee productivity and could potentially create long-term damage to reputation and brand identity.

“Our company grew at a pace where our antiquated network proved inadequate and it became clear that we couldn’t scale fast enough to support the employees and customers who must rely on this network infrastructure,” says Bill Avellan, director of IT of U.S. Auto Parts Network, Inc.

After evaluating solutions from new and its existing vendors, the company decided to deploy a network infrastructure based on Ethernet switching solutions from Force10 Networks (News - Alert). They selected the chassis-based Force10 C-Series resilient switch and the S-Series access switches due to their unmatched combination of performance, reliability, flexibility and ease of management.

Seeing Immediate Results

U.S. Auto Parts Network, Inc. took a measured, incremental approach to deploying its new network infrastructure. Rather than a “rip and replace” scenario, the company first deployed Force10 S50 access switches to see how they would perform at its corporate data center in Carson, California. The access switches proved highly effective in providing additional bandwidth with ultra low latency that minimized the network bottlenecks they were experiencing, especially during peak traffic periods.

When they decided to consolidate their domestic network infrastructure, they replaced the S-Series switches with one Force10 C300 resilient switch at its Carson data center. Through this consolidation, the company dramatically improved the agility and scalability of its network core based on the switch’s high port density and line-rate switching performance. In its chassis, the C300 offers up to 384 line-rate 100Base-FX or GbE SFP ports and up to 64 line-rate 10 GbE ports. Going forward, Avellan and his staff are confident that having port density will facilitate seamless growth, ensure investment protection and minimize complexity because they won’t have to buy new switches that require managing as often, saving OpEx and CapEx costs.

PoE Capability Helps Deliver Greater Call Agent Efficiency

With its corporate LAN operating more effectively, U.S. Auto Parts Network, Inc. turned their attention to its Customer Contact Center to try to improve their call center efficiency. Three C300s, each with the 48-port 10/100/1000Base-T line cards that offer PoE (power over Ethernet) support, were deployed. With intelligent power management capability, each chassis can provide up to 15.4 watts of power per port, while maintaining full system and PoE power supply redundancy.

Like its S-Series and C-Series deployments at its Carson data center, upon the deployment of the C300s employees saw immediate and dramatic improvement in part due to their 5 microsecond switching latency under full load for 64-byte frames, while its switch fabric capacity of 1.536 Tbps helped eliminate any bandwidth-related issues.

“Once the switches were deployed, bandwidth utilization on our phone lines dropped from 72 percent to 45 percent,” says Avellan. “Not because we were getting less calls, but because the switches could process it more effectively.”

Pedal-to-the-Metal Improvement in Performance and Management

One of the recognized measurements of high performance cars is how many seconds it takes for the vehicle to go from 0–60 miles per hour. When considering the deployment of high performance Ethernet switches, it’s how fast they can improve the network and how reliable they can perform. After testing the Force10 S-Series and C-Series switches, Avellan was not surprised by their performance. It was the 4.3 second, 0-60 mph improvement of the network.

“After our initial experiences with Force10, I anticipated positive performance changes, but once they were deployed, I was struck by how quickly problems just disappeared and how easy it was to manage their devices because we were familiar with their standard CLI. What used to take several people to manage various network-related tasks, now really takes just one to manage the Force10-based infrastructure.”

With Force10 switch solutions in place, data center managers at U.S. Auto Parts Network, Inc. are now confident that the performance of their network will reliably motor on and effectively keep pace with its growing business.

Ken Won is director of product marketing of Force10 Networks.

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Edited by Stefania Viscusi