Hot Swaps & Hot Chicken: How Zaxby’s Grows a Restaurant Chain with VDI

Apr 19, 2017
Vernon Apperson


Vernon is a technology writer for VMware, specializing in customer storytelling.

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Zaxby’sZaxbys-Logo, a fast-casual restaurant chain with locations in 17 U.S. states, opened its 800th store in October 2016 and shows no sign of slowing down. The corporate franchising arm of the business, based in Athens, Georgia, uses virtual desktops and a business resumption plan powered by VMware Horizon.

Zaxby’s provides virtual desktops for key employees as part of an overall disaster recovery plan, said Ehsan Choudhury, senior director of IT operations and security for Zaxby’s Franchising. “If something were to happen to our data center on-site, we can effectively flip over to a hot site at a co-lo in a different state,” said Choudhury. “And we can send critical staff home with their laptops. They can VPN in to that co-lo and connect to virtual desktops—they can keep working as if nothing had changed.”

Horizon-VDI-disaster recovery

With Horizon, Zaxby’s employees can continue working on virtual desktops, no matter what happens.

The company tests the co-lo data and connections regularly. And it’s a good thing, because Choudhury says the company has had a few instances where, “if it hadn’t been for VMware virtualization, we would have been in pretty dire straits. We once had a critical server that was inadvertently damaged beyond recovery. Standing up a brand new physical server takes a while. But in less than an hour, we were able to deploy a virtual server with all our apps.”


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Choudhury notes that Zaxby’s also uses Horizon for testing. “That’s a huge factor in moving projects forward. We can take a snapshot, and if something goes wrong in testing we can roll back to that snapshot. Not so easy to do on a physical server if you have to re-deploy an image.”

[Related: VMware Horizon 7.1 Is GA! What’s New—Part 1]

Zaxby’s depends on business intelligence to make decisions about its restaurants every day. “We do everything based on information about data, like sales and transactions or traffic flow in stores,” said Choudhury. “And those decisions are made very quickly. So it’s important to be able to recover fast after a problem or an outage.”

Workers can also be more productive if they’re not confined to an office. “We don’t really tell people when they can work. They have goals to meet, and sometimes they want to work odd hours to get to those goals. None of that would be possible without virtual desktops,” said Choudhury.

[Related: VMware Horizon 7.1 Technical Deep Dive]

Security is another important factor for this data-driven company. Teleworkers use VPN to connect to virtual desktops hosted on-premises. Because these workers handle sensitive financial information, such as accounting and payroll, it’s important that no data leak out of the corporate infrastructure. With VDI, all the data is hosted at the corporate site and remains within the company’s security boundaries.

“Horizon and VMware are an integral part of our operations. We could not work effectively without them. It’s the single most significant platform that has made a lot of things possible.”
—Ehsan Choudhury, Senior Director of IT Operations & Security, Zaxby’s Franchising

The company plans to move computing from 40-percent to 90-percent virtualized by the end of 2017, possibly moving from standard laptops to thin clients for hardware savings. Choudhury also noted that the company has consolidated multiple servers over the years into a single physical box, saving cost, energy and footprint. “With VMware, our data center footprint is ridiculously small compared to seven or eight years ago. Also, if it hadn’t been for virtualization, I would probably need three or four more people on my team just to keep up with day-to-day operations. VMware is pretty awesome.”

If this post is making you hungry, Choudhury recommends the Kickin’ Chicken, Tongue Torch sauce and fried pickles on the side.

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