Council broadens horizons with virtualisation project

Surrey County Council is extending its use of distributed application delivery, with a major new virtualisation desktop infrastructure (VDI) project.

The authority is working with independent consultancy Centralis to roll a Government Connect security compliant, Citrix-based VDI deployment out to some 8,000 users, 10 per cent of whom are also mobile.

As a result, it will also replace more than half of its existing 6,000 desktops across 300 sites with thin-client terminals between now and 2011. The work builds on the success of existing, limited branch application delivery work.

Peter Sullivan, technical architect at Surrey County Council, told IT PRO that previous experience of working with Citrix Presentation Server to deliver some applications to branch sites had proven a success.

"We used Citrix in a project called 'Surrey Desktop Light,' which worked quite well, so we decided to use it as a model for updating our increasingly unwieldy desktop estate, especially where performance was issue," he said.

The new system will replace a legacy Windows 2000 PC environment that was costly to run and maintain, as well as inefficient from the perspective of its energy consumption.

At the same time, Sullivan added that a planned client upgrade of SAP, used for the council's finance, procurement and human resource (HR) requirements, was also proving too big to roll out to every desktop using traditional methods.

The council worked with Centralis to plan, design and implement a Citrix server farm capable of delivering core applications to both fat and thin client platforms, in a project named "Citrix New Horizons".

Built on Citrix XenApp Enterprise Edition and Citrix EdgeSight, the project is also using bespoke Centralis software and virtual channels for content redirect. As a result, the council has a built dynamic data centre running 205 virtual servers, operating Citrix over VMware in a hosted environment designed by Centralis.

Sullivan explained that a mixed virtual server environment was necessary as the council's current hosting provider would not support its new Citrix deployment.

But he said: "Centralising all our servers and file storage in one place will improve accessibility and productivity levels, while the power and space reductions will help towards delivering on our [government-mandated] green agenda."

The authority is now evaluating mobile solutions to deploy on top of its new virtualised server and desktop infrastructure to improve performance levels for mobile workers, at the same time as helping to cut additional costs across the organisation.

Miya Knights

A 25-year veteran enterprise technology expert, Miya Knights applies her deep understanding of technology gained through her journalism career to both her role as a consultant and as director at Retail Technology Magazine, which she helped shape over the past 17 years. Miya was educated at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in English.

Her role as a journalist has seen her write for many of the leading technology publishers in the UK such as ITPro, TechWeekEurope, CIO UK, Computer Weekly, and also a number of national newspapers including The Times, Independent, and Financial Times.