A&W Food Services Canada - An AutoVirt Customer Profile

A&W Food Services Canada talks about using AutoVirt's storage virtualization technology

From time to time, I like to check in with someone actually using technology rather than just listening to suppliers. This time, I communicated with Bruce Jamieson, a representative of A&W Food Services in Canada, and learned a bit about how it is using AutoVirt's technology. Thank you Bruce!

Please introduce yourself and your company.

A&W Food Services is Canada’s second-largest and fastest-growing hamburger chain, with over 700 franchised restaurants. Our corporate headquarters in North Vancouver, BC, houses our finance, real estate development, legal, purchasing, and marketing departments. All franchise data – sales, inventory, promotions, etc. – is gathered and processed here.

I’ve been with A&W for 6 years. When I joined the company, twelve physical servers – each with its own keyboard and monitor – were sprawled across tables in an already-too-small server room. To reduce my power consumption and physical footprint, I began to virtualize the server environment. Today, a colleague and I manage two NAS boxes and a SAN, which host upward of 45 virtual machines.

What are you doing that needed AutoVirt’s technology?

Having tackled our application servers using virtualization, I wanted to do something about our file server. The file system I inherited when I joined A&W had very little structure, making it impossible for me to isolate the relatively few files that required specialized policy-based treatment. I was applying the same expensive backup, retention, and security policies to all of the files in my environment. I wanted to find a solution that would enable me to clean up my backend file data, so that I could more easily manage it.

I also needed to migrate to a new file server, as my existing file server had been operating at a dangerously high 97% capacity.

What products did you look at before making a selection?

I had originally purchased StorageX, from Brocade, but the product was end-of-lifed. I chose AutoVirt to replace it.

Why did you select this product?

I need to apply data management policies to only those files that require management. To target my policies this way, I needed to reorganize my file system – but I didn’t want to retrain my users, break shortcuts, or take data offline for extended periods of time. AutoVirt allowed me to virtualize access to my file server. I could move data without breaking end user shortcuts and embedded links, and with minimal downtime. In general, AutoVirt’s low-impact approach – it is out-of-band, software-only, and priced dramatically lower than its competitors – made it an obvious choice.

What tangible benefit has your organization received through the use of this product?

This may sound ridiculous, but our investment in AutoVirt was returned in 15 minutes. I had budgeted 40 hours to migrate to a new file server. At a rate of $120/hour, the project would have cost $4,800. With AutoVirt I spent just 15 minutes setting up a migration policy – a cost of just $30 in labor. If you have a large file system this kind of savings can add up in a hurry.

What advice would you offer others facing similar issues?

The concept behind AutoVirt is a bit of a different way of thinking. To us 'old-timers' it takes a bit to wrap your head around the concepts. At first it almost seemed foreign – imagine moving someone’s file to a new location, while they are using it. Unheard of before Microsoft came up with the namespace concept [its Distributed File System (DFS) product].

But they dropped the ball and did no further development on it. AutoVirt’s development team saw the opportunity and seized it. Adding to the utility of the concept they implemented Policy in their program and really made it easy.

I can copy, move, delete, migrate, count and set it up in no time; literally in minutes. Migrating a file server to a new machine used to be an onerous task, requiring many hours of copy and paste, modify and test, reset and rewrite scripts etc. Today, I can set the policy in minutes and do the deed overnight while I spend time at home with my family. This kind of benefit is priceless. Of course, the reduction in man-hours, especially after-hours hours, is a decided benefit to my company.