Customers Hyperconverged Infrastructure vSAN vSAN

#EmpoweredbyvSAN: Wesley Milliron Soars with Giant Eagle’s Adoption of HCI

Introducing: A Blog Series on Career Success with VMware Hyperconverged Infrastructure

Starting this week, VMware will release a series of blogs on career success stories of people just like you that have adopted hyperconverged infrastructure. While companies are often quick to point to business success stories – ABC Company grew revenue or reduced costs due to ‘x’ product – often there is a bigger story around the people that decide on adopting the new technology and implement it. When a company adopts new technology, it offers employees new opportunities to succeed. This blog series aims to share some of those successes.

Wesley Milliron Leads Giant Eagle’s Adoption of HCI

VMware Career Success Wes at Giant Eagle

Wes is an 8-year IT veteran that has worked at Giant Eagle, a Pennsylvania-based, regional multi-format food, fuel and pharmacy retailer, for the last two years. He knew he had a passion for IT at an early age, running VOIP servers, game servers and webservers out of his parents’ house as a teenager, “essentially providing IT services to friends.” He started his career in a work-study program at college, took his first professional role at an IT help desk, then moved up to a general systems administrator and is now a Senior Systems Engineer at Giant Eagle.

When he arrived at Giant Eagle, Wes found that, like many IT organizations, he needed to collaborate across IT teams to accomplish his day-to-day activities, which reduced the time he had available to focus on completing related tasks. In addition, the environment he managed was outdated, resulting in frequent challenging outages, and Wes devoted much of his time to troubleshooting. Due to the lack of reliability from aging infrastructure, he was worried that his team “was beginning to lose trust within the rest of the organization,” and he was looking for an opportunity to regain that trust.

When the opportunity arose to refresh the aging infrastructure, Wes leapt at it. He knew he wanted to transition to VMware, and he was interested in reducing organizational friction by taking on ownership of additional resources and transitioning to a single management plane for the environment. However, Wes didn’t want the headache of managing storage in addition to his other resources, so he was looking for a simplified solution that relied on automation to eliminate many routine storage tasks. During a typical sales cycle, he learned about hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) and put VMware vSAN through a proof of concept, along with several other HCI solutions. Ultimately, Wes and his team decided on VMware based on performance as well as simplicity.

Wes Seizes An Opportunity

Wes led the transition off of traditional storage to a VMware vSAN-based hyperconverged environment. Although he could have transitioned immediately, he opted for a gradual implementation of vSAN. During the transition, the team experienced no outages, and he found VMware HCI to be much more stable than his previous solution. Wes was encouraged by management to learn as much as he could about vSAN before and during implementation, so he quickly became the foremost expert on HCI at Giant Eagle. Since the implementation went so well at the warehouses, and because he was the HCI expert at the company, Wes was selected by management as the technical lead for deploying vSAN at the core data center. In addition to overseeing the deployment of vSAN, for the first time in his career, Wes was empowered to train other team members on vSAN. Wes found the opportunity to lead others rewarding, saying, “When you enable others to succeed, it’s good for everyone.” He states the process helped him develop and refine leadership skills that will be useful for him for the rest of his career. He also documented every step of the implementation process, establishing important guidelines that could be replicated throughout the company. Due to multiple successful implementations and training of team members on how to use hyperconverged infrastructure, Wes was promoted to Senior Systems Engineer at Giant Eagle. Wes credits his love of learning, desire to improve his team and management’s encouragement for his success. He feels like he’s just getting started, as HCI has “enabled him to move into bigger and better projects and keep learning.”

Next Steps for Wesley

Now that the environment is more stable, Wes spends much less time fighting fires – there hasn’t been an outage since transitioning to vSAN – and more time solidifying the operational posture of the team. “Ultimately, everyone in IT wants to maximize the use of automation to streamline workflows,” Wesley states, and he’s interested in leveraging vRealize Operations and is looking toward vRealize Automation to take operational simplicity to the next level. “We’ve been working on automating our image and VM deployment and working towards a self-service model that was always kind of a pipe dream of ours for a long time.” Wes looks at automation as an opportunity to create additional business value. “We currently have one person who spends a large chunk of their time provisioning VMs, imagine what we could do with that time after automating that process.”