From Regional Brand to International Dominance
IIS has had a longstanding relationship with the client, having worked with them on previous projects that go back nearly 20 years. Back then, the company had fewer than 2,000 franchises; today, it is the largest franchiser in the world, with more than 44,000 restaurants in over 100 countries around the world.
With such an aggressive expansion plan, the client was going to great lengths to create a similar environment in every location. Each franchise is privately owned, and the client provides a standardized training course for new employees. These training courses are held a minimum of four times a year in each location.
The existing process to set up training courses was an arduous one. Renting a room to hold the training course is simple enough, but computer setup was a perpetual logistical challenge: it involved buying or renting the equipment to use on site; sending out one of the client IT team to set everything up; a testing phase to make sure the operating systems and software were running properly; and wiping the machines clean before returning them, or sending them to the next location. The training courses would take about one week to finish, but setting up for the training courses would take two or three weeks. When computers needed to be repaired, they would have to be shipped back to a central repair facility, which added up to exorbitant maintenance costs.
Removing the Physical Setup
IIS looked into details of a number of different possible solutions and platforms that might suit the client’s needs, but clearly, a virtual machine setup with cloud-based servers would make the company’s process of setting up training courses significantly easier. Setting up a cloud-based virtual machine solution was a new experience, but not one for which the team was unprepared. IIS had invested ahead of time to make sure its staff had knowledge of the technology and its implementation, and had the vendor partners - most notably VMware - in place to get the best deals and discounts possible.
The client had a few providers and solutions in mind it was interested in exploring. IIS helped them by laying out all possibilities and letting them choose what looked best, eventually leading to VMware as their solution. It was required that the virtual machines would need to run a Windows operating system; at the time, most providers could only offer a simulated Windows experience, which would not run the same applications the client would need. The only existing provider at the time that could offer a true Windows environment was vCloud Air.
IIS set up vCloud Air on the client’s behalf. The next step was to set up a base virtual machine image that they could copy as needed for future training sessions. This took some time and multiple iterations to get established, as the client’s staff took an active, collaborative role in determining the specifics of what was needed. As a result, the image would be built, tested and marked ready to go, but then it would need to be revised and retested with new patches since the details had not been finalized.
Because the franchiser has locations in so many different countries, there were understandably differences between the individual restaurants, and the IIS solution needed to account for those differences. Many franchises altered their menus to fall in line with the local culture, and of course there were language differences all over the world. IIS provided specifications on what they would need and what VMware would need for each image, and the client would provide each image from there.
To make sure that performance would be the required level of quality, IIS recognized that each training location would need to have cloud servers set up reasonably nearby. Keeping the cloud servers in a single location (such as the United States, where the company is headquartered) might have been acceptable, but there would have been performance issues due to long-distance communications. That said, the specific location of the servers did not make a difference in terms of setting them up; since the servers are accessed remotely, they would never require someone to be there in person to set them up.
Weeks Saved Per Course
When the cloud setup was finished and the virtual machine infrastructure was set, future training courses became very streamlined to set up. When it came time to schedule a training course, the client’s IT team could put in an order for the number of virtual desktops it needed and specify how much RAM it wanted available for each one. Setup would then be as simple for IIS as copying and installing the image on the required number of machines. When the training course was over, rather than needing to wipe and move a large number of machines, it was as simple as deleting those virtual machines.
On site, all the location needed to provide were thin clients. These could be any computers with usable web browsers that could connect to the virtual machines. The power of these thin clients does not matter, since the cloud server hosting the virtual machines handles the actual processing. This means that the costs of equipment and sending IT personnel to the site are cut down significantly from the previous setup method.
The client’s IT team could have set up this infrastructure on its own. However, if they had, they would have needed to pay for cloud server space even during months where no training courses were going on. Going through IIS allowed the client access to the cloud servers and virtual machines when needed without the overhead cost of server time going to waste.
One Major Setup, with Continuing Rewards
IIS was able to take the client’s training process and cut the extra time out entirely, turning it into a simple, repeatable solution that could be easily requested and implemented. Thus much of the ROI from this project was realized in the lack of hard costs associated with training new franchises: the company no longer had to pay for travel; setup and maintenance of physical computers at training locations; or the extra two weeks required by the previous method. There was also implied value for the company’s brand; the new solution guaranteed standardization across all franchises.
Going forward, the client’s IT team can schedule and execute future training courses with very little hassle. They can go into training without worrying about the hardware and setup issues of the past, and they have IIS as a resource if anything does go wrong. Whenever the time comes for them to update their training courses, IT can update base images without missing a step in the process.