Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, HMSHost Corporation is a leading provider of innovative dining locations in more than 100 airports worldwide and along 99 motorways across North America. HMSHost helped introduce leading restaurant brands such as Beaudevin Wine Bar and Wicker Park Seafood & Sushi into airport and travel plaza environments. Its portfolio now includes more than 300 international, regional, local and proprietary brands including Starbucks Coffee, Tortas Frontera by Rick Bayless, California Pizza Kitchen, Chili’s Too and Tim Hortons.
All backend processing for the business applications used in HMSHost restaurants is performed in one of the firm’s three datacenters. Front-end application performance is a critical factor in delivering a pleasing and responsive customer experience. “Our workforce of 30.000 associates is very, very distributed,” explains Paul Garcia, senior director of IT infrastructure. “So delivering all our critical operating applications—point of sale, voice telephony, data—is a key to our business success.”
To accelerate performance, the company had partially deployed a WAN optimization solution, but high costs and limited scalability had stalled the rollout and restricted service to only about 40 of HMSHost’s larger locations.
In search of a more scalable solution that could serve and benefit all of its locations, HMSHost worked with Citrix to design and test a Citrix CloudBridge deployment. CloudBridge combines WAN optimization, application acceleration, storage replication acceleration, video caching, secure tunneling, quality-of-service assurance and flexible centralized management in a single, unified platform. The product immediately impressed HMSHost’s IT group with its ease of use and ability to coexist in a production environment without disturbing the legacy optimization solution. More importantly, it reduced data transmission rates for HMSHost’s critical point-of-sale (POS) application by more than 90 percent, and its pay-as-you-grow licensing model made it possible to provision all of HMSHost’s business locations.
Based on these results, HMSHost ordered CloudBridge WAN optimization appliances for more than 220 business locations and datacenters. The new appliances were deployed by a team of five in a tightly choreographed 90-day process that covered 14 countries. The team installed new CloudBridge devices while also performing local-area-network (LAN) upgrades, new WAN links, service provider changes and new firewall deployment. CDW Corporation preconfigured and drop-shipped all appliances to HMSHost locations in advance of the deployment team visits.
The Citrix CloudBridge appliances dramatically reduce the volume of data moving across HMSHost’s WAN, and that directly benefits application performance. “We’ve seen greater than 90 percent data reduction rates with the CloudBridge platform,” Garcia points out. “That means transactions ring faster. We can open new checks at a restaurant faster—10, 15, 20 percent improvements at a time. If you think about hundreds of millions of transactions over the course of a year, those time savings aren’t just about greater efficiency for us; they’re about giving our customers the best possible service, as quickly as possible.”
With its legacy solution, HMSHost had to buy and deploy a larger WAN appliance every time it wanted to optimize a larger number of sessions. With CloudBridge, the same capacity increase requires only a simple, affordable license upgrade. The difference in scalability and licensing has made it possible to extend application acceleration to more than 180 additional locations.
“With the CloudBridge solution, we can put one size device in a location and satisfy all our needs as the business at that location grows,” Garcia says. “And with the Citrix cost model, all of our locations can now enjoy the benefits of WAN optimization and application performance acceleration.”
The CloudBridge deployment hasn’t just improved the performance of HMSHost’s existing applications; it has also enabled entirely new ones. “Another benefit we’ve realized with CloudBridge is the ability to do a video broadcast,” Garcia explains. “It’s really not something we could approach before, and we were a little nervous going into it. But as soon as the broadcast started, the CloudBridge devices started doing what they do with block caching, with flow control, with the optimizations—the video stream just flowed. We had no packet loss, and it was a positive experience for everyone who participated.”
Garcia and his team continue to expand their CloudBridge environment as HMSHost adds new business and restaurant locations. The company is currently conducting pilot evaluations of Citrix XenApp for application virtualization and Citrix XenDesktop for desktop virtualization and has begun preliminary evaluation of Citrix XenMobile for mobile device management.
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