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Application Delivery: Rent-a-Center Case Study and Webinar

I had the privilege this week of doing a webinar with Rent-A-Center.  The webinar addresses how Rent-A-Center is using VMware vRealize Suite and VMware NSX to speed up infrastructure and application delivery.  I presented alongside Thomas Jackson and Jeffrey Stephens who both work for Rent-A-Center IT.  Thomas is an Infrastructure Architect and Jeffrey is a Senior Manager for Infrastructure Engineering.  Together they represent over 40 years of experience working with infrastructure including compute, storage, network and virtualization technologies.

speeding trainRent-A-Center has nearly 3,000 retail outlets in 47 states.  The company has been growing rapidly over the past several years, opening many new stores and smaller kiosks.  Rent-A-Center had been running what is not an uncommon model for retail companies where every end point location – usually a store – has one or more on premise servers responsible for a set of application services that are consumed by store customers and/or store employees.  These same organizations generally are also running a central data center where they have applications that are leveraged by the corporate teams – finance, supply chain, HR, etc.

Servers as Pets

The challenge with the “closet” data center model is that it tends to be hugely resource intensive.  These satellite or closet data centers are extremely difficult to support.  To make this point, the Rent-A-Center team talks about in-store servers as being treated as “pets”.  Their point is that these in-store, stateful servers need constant “love and attention” to keep them up and running – hence the idea that servers are like pets.

In this kind of environment, when something goes wrong you tend have a large impact to productivity at the end point location.  The support team has to first remote into a server and try to fix it.  That works to a point but if you can’t get it back online then you have to dispatch someone to the site.  That’s expensive and people intensive but a bigger problem is the time it takes to get things back on-line with this type of model.   Often a lot of time.  The impact to the business of this kind of downtown can be substantial.

Simplify and Speed Up

To solve this problem, Rent-A-Center re-architected their store compute model.  They moved to a model where they centralized all of the store applications including the POS in their central data center.   As part of this re-architecture they also adopted the use of both VMware vRealize Suite and VMware NSX.  The team uses vRealize Suite to rapidly provision the store infrastructure based on pre-defined blueprints (templates).  They use NSX to simplify network operations (software defined networking) and to provide a capability that allows the team to rapidly provision application level firewalls when required.

The new model being employed at Rent-A-Center dramatically speeds up and simplifies the process of deploying a new store.  If something does go wrong to an existing store, it can be easily blown away without any loss of data and re-provisioned with minimal impact to store operations.  Using significantly higher levels of automation also means that teams can spend a lot less time on manual and easily repeatable tasks and put more time and effort into higher value activities.  That’s good for the business and also great for employee morale.

Earlier in this blog I stated that the Rent-A-Center use case is a common one for retail organizations.  However the benefits of adopting a solution to the challenge of infrastructure and application delivery are achievable across a broad range of scenarios.  Said another way you don’t need to be a retail organization to benefit from automating resource delivery.

Last year VMware released a study of our customers that was done by Forrester Research. Titled ” The Forrester Total Economic Impact™ of VMware Automated Application Deployment” the study showed that organizations received benefits in four areas.  First, the time it took to provision resources was dramatically reduced.  The second benefit was that the productivity of teams that were requesting resources was greatly enhanced.  The same is true of the team that had to provision resources which is the third benefit.  Finally the efficient use of data center resources was greatly increased.

Learn More About How VMware Can Help Teams Accelerate IT Service Delivery

VMware’s vRealize Suite is an Enterprise-ready, cloud management platform that delivers the industry’s most complete solution for managing a heterogeneous, hybrid cloud.  vRealize Suite supports companies addressing cloud management requirements across day one service delivery and day two operations for compute, storage, network and application level resources.  The easiest and quickest way to learn more about VMware Cloud Management Platform solutions is to visit us online at VMware vRealize Suite.