Barnsley streamlines IT service and delivery

The local authority is expanding its use of virtualisation after successfully completing an IT modernisation project to introduce remote working.

Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council is looking to build on a successful two-year IT modernisation project with plans to deploy virtual desktops.

The introduction of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is the culmination of the authority's growing use of application delivery technology to facilitate more flexible working for its staff, while rationalising its office space and carbon footprint.

Having been a Citrix Terminal Services, then MetaFrame, user since 1999, the council's decision to modernise IT delivery coincided with the outsourcing of its IT function in a joint partnership venture two years ago with its existing mainframe and Unix provider, Bull.

The moved Barnsley council's IT staff over to the newly-created Bull TCL organisation under a transfer of undertakings (TUPE) agreement. James Livesey, Bull TCL ICT technical analyst, was just one such staff member, who told IT PRO how the modernisation project fit with the new business's goals.

"We provide IT services to Barnsley council, but we are also looking to expand the other, primarily hosting, services we provide to other companies in the UK from our data centre here in Barnsley," he said.

Livesey said the expansion of its application delivery infrastructure has supported the transition of the council's IT function to independent IT services provider.

"Now we're on Citrix Presentation Server version 4.5," he explained. "And during that progression we've realised the opportunities to use our Citrix investment as more than just a comms link."

The council now runs five Citrix XenApp farms, for corporate core data and applications, SAP, remote asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) and internet service provider (ISP) connections, its Housing department's facilities management services and a test farm.

"With XenApp, we had found a way to significantly move computing power from the desktop to the server by delivering applications to users. But if the team had an issue or needed to swap out a server it could often take them a whole day," he said. "Now, when we need to change configuration we can create an image of that server, move it to an isolated machine, make the change and deploy."

As well as realising the council's aims of achieving IT management efficiencies, it also delivered on the requirement to facilitate more remote working and the reduction to its carbon footprint as a result.

"The main challenge now is to keep the environment for users as standard as possible regardless of what device they access the network from. It has to be the same desktop they see," added Livesey.

Now, using virtualisation components from a variety of vendors, including Citrix, VMware and AppSense, Bull TCL plans to roll VDI out securely to the council's workers next year.

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