Forcepoint: A Partnership Success Story

Forcepoint is one of Kubus’ longest standing customers, with data centres in 28 different sites all over the world. Forcepoint provide their services to 12,000 corporations in 150 countries including airlines, banks, software companies, pharmaceuticals, and automotive manufacturers.


This year, Forcepoint decided it was time to consolidate their sites and reduce their operations to 17 sites globally. So, they came to us.

Data centres are all about delivering the largest amount of power and connectivity in the most efficient way possible. For this project we partnered with Digital Reality, one of the world’s largest providers of data centres, and we turned to Dell Technologies to supply the equipment.

R640

  • 2.5” or 3.5” drives.
  • Easy integrations for VMware® vSphere®, Microsoft® System Center and Nagios®.
  • Simplify deployment and easily scale from 3 to 1000+ nodes for software-defined storage with Dell Ready Nodes.
  • Maximize performance with up to 10 NVMe drives and 24 DIMMs, 12 of which can be DCPMMs or NVDIMMs.
  • Dual-socket platform for dense scale-out data center computing and storage.
Dell Technologies R640
Dell Technologies R650

R650

  • Smaller PSU unit for maximised efficiency, leaving room for an Integrated Boot Optimized Storage Solution (BOSS) in the form of an m.2 SSD.
  • Better built-in support for NVMe storage via H755 or H755N RAID card, for faster data transfer speeds.
  • 32 DIMM slots, with a maximum memory capacity of up to 12TB.
  • Support for 3rd generation Intel® Xeon® Processors, unlocking CPU’s with more cores, pins, and faster bus speeds.

“The biggest challenge with a project of this magnitude is scope” says Paul Bonner, the Technical Director at Kubus. “There was over £7million worth, and literally tonnes of equipment in play here, with a lot of that being legacy gear. We’re talking about servers that are 16 years old, give or take. But the real heavy lifting on a job like this is deciding what to keep, what to replace and, critically, knowing Dell’s portfolio well enough to know what to replace it with. We reduced Forcepoint’s existing inventory of equipment of over 100 different SKUs, down to 8.”

“We reduced Forcepoint’s existing inventory of equipment of over 100 different SKUs, down to 8.”

Something that often gets overlooked on a project of this scale, is that when you buy 1000 servers from Dell, you’ll also get 1000 manuals, 1000 CDs, 1000 lots of cables and 1000 lots of cardboard inserts. We can significantly reduce the footprint of a project by consolidating the extra parts, the documentation and the packaging down to a minimum.

We chose Dell’s R640 and R650 rack servers for this project because for every 5 old servers we take out, we can replace it with one new server, and we can still operate at about the same level of performance. That’s a 5 to 1 improvement on performance.

But it’s not just speed, Dell servers are cheaper to run as well. They use less power which means they require less cooling which means less money to run them each month.

They’ve got supported hardware and everything comes with a five-year support guarantee. “Dell is rock solid” says Paul, “and they’re nicer to work with and more reliable than other vendors we’ve used in the past.”

“Dell is rock solid. They’re nicer to work with and more reliable than other vendors we’ve used in the past.”

Logistics also played a huge part in this project. The shortest distance between move locations was 2.5 miles, but the furthest distance was 861 miles between San Jose and Phoenix. The practicalities of getting large amounts of equipment across great distances played a huge role in the successful delivery of this project.

We ship to 123 countries on an annual basis and we manage it all in house, which is particularly useful for customers who haven’t got business entities within the country. We can handle all the importation records, pay all the taxes and then reclaim it all from the customer.

Dell Technologies - Timing is everything

Challenge 3  – The Deployment

When you’re deploying 150 servers in a data centre, timing is everything. Running over time is simply not an option for these types of projects, because thousands of people will be logging in on Monday morning and they can’t be pulling data from locations outside the region for any length of time. These projects are 24/7 operations. Any shut down period must be tightly coordinated to ensure the utmost efficiency so that the Forcepoint tech team has enough time to install the operating systems on all the new servers. “We shut down 7pm Friday, and had 36 hours to get the data centres moved across the country and back up and running by 7pm Sunday night.”

Data Centres cost a lot of money, you’re looking at an average of £50k per rack a year to run. With an overhaul like this recent project, where we were able to cut their server numbers by a ratio of 5 down to 1, alongside optimising their networks and storage, we were able to save Forcepoint, on average, 40k of running costs, per rack.

We take pride in the environments we create; we make them look good and make sure they’re easy to navigate and maintain. Because it’s not us who’s going in there if there’s a problem down the line, it’s the people on site and they need to know where everything is.

Part of preparing the site for the client involves prestaging the equipment. This includes things like testing and configuring, labelling up all the management IP addresses for each server, and burn testing everything for 48hrs.

Pre-staging means that you won’t lose money on teams of technicians waiting around for broken, missing or damaged parts to be replaced. You can literally take the equipment out of the box, plug it in and start using it.

On the completion of this project, Forcepoint, despite downsizing from 28 to 17 data centres, will have potential to expand and add servers in the future. Ultimately, it’s their customers who will enjoy a better experience. The new equipment and networking performance offering an improvement in latency from 300 milliseconds to around 40 or 50 milliseconds.

So, if you’re wondering why a billion-dollar company in the US wants to deal with a small team of 60 people operating out of the Cotswolds?  It’s because we know the Dell portfolio inside out. We know the Forcepoint network better than they do because we designed it. And, because they keep coming back. In fact, we’ve got 5 new data centres scheduled for next year and all Forcepoint have to do is tell us where they want it, and we’ll take care of the rest.

Published on 8th July 2024