Service deliveryDigital Customer ServiceVDI offers flexibility and mobility at Falkirk Council

VDI offers flexibility and mobility at Falkirk Council

VDI implementation is a huge cultural change and the council is able to introduce flexible and remote working whilst ensuring availability to residents

Falkirk Council has implemented virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) to provide workplace flexibility and mobility for over 2,000 staff. This will help the council to assess and rationalise its whole office estate. It will also help them to make better use of its building assets. The announcement was made by IGEL, a world leader in software-defined endpoint optimisation and control solutions for the secure enterprise.

The council is located in central Scotland within half an hour of Glasgow and Edinburgh. It provides a diverse and wide range of services to over 160,000 residents. The services including bin collection, education, home care, planning application services, social housing, fostering and adoption services and roads maintenance.

It serves the largest towns in the area such as Falkirk, Bo’ness, Denny, Larbert, Stenhousemuir, and Grangemouth. Grangemouth is Scotland’s premier port and home to its only major oil refinery.

Meeting compliance obligations and saving cost

The council has deployed Citrix Workspace as its VDI, mobile device and application management solution. This is along with 600 IGEL multimedia UD3 and 100 powerful quad-core UD6 endpoints. Additionally, 1,000 IGEL Universal Desktop Convertor (UDC) software licences are also included.

It is supplied by I-KONIC. It has put in place a flexible, easy-to-manage and cost-effective solution to support the future development of the organisation. I-KONIC is an IT solutions provider and IGEL partner based in Glasgow.

In addition, VDI is allowing the council to meet its Public Service Network (PSN) compliance obligations. It is also allowing the council to shift away from a continuous desktop replacement programme. The programme was costing around £250,000 every year.

Tommy Evans, Falkirk council’s project lead for mobile and flexible working, explains: “Although it might sound cliché, moving from traditional PCs to thin client technology has genuinely been a paradigm shift for us. Along with mobile devices and iPads, staff aren’t now tied to a particular desk.

“They just login from any IGEL device and are presented with Microsoft Office and applications tailored to their specific job role. We’re trying to change the mindset of employees to make work an activity, not just somewhere you go from 9-5. We’re empowering our staff to work anytime anywhere, even from home so they benefit from a good work-life balance.”

Evans adds, “Even if there’s a snowstorm and people can’t get to an office, they can still login in and work as normal. VDI is also allowing us to review the buildings we currently have and exit old properties to lower our operational expenditure – helping towards making savings, which we hope will contribute to the approximately £60 million worth of savings which have to be made by 2023.”

Simplified desktop management

The challenges and overhead of managing thousands of PCs across various buildings have been removed. This is owing to the use of Citrix Workspace. Software updates are easily made as data and applications are all held centrally. The IT staff don’t have to traipse around machines updating things individually.

Changes made in the datacenter automatically populate the connected IGEL desktops. This is key as PSN compliance requires councils to carefully manage the release dates of all key applications in use. Key applications need to be only two versions behind the latest.

In addition, startup is now super-fast and takes seconds rather than minutes as was the case when PCs were used. Clearly, this boosts staff productivity and avoids people wasting time as they wait for their desktops to ‘boot up.’

Furthermore, hardware maintenance has been drastically simplified as IGEL devices have no moving parts such as hard drives and fans.

The Citrix Workspace solution is powered by HPE server infrastructure. The Citrix control layer is hosted on two HiveIO hyperconverged clusters for availability, each consisting of four HP ProLiant DL360 servers with the Citrix XenServer hypervisor. All virtual desktop workloads run from HPE Enterprise Moonshot System which is populated with 90 server cartridges across two chassis to deliver optimised performance.

In total the council has invested around £1.8 million. This is to completely transition away from PCs and put in place a much more modern, flexible and easy to manage desktop solution. This will be is more cost effective in the long term.

Boost efficiency and increase productivity

Sean Russell, I-KONIC’s managing director, says, “As a Scottish-based IGEL partner and Citrix Gold Solution Advisor, it’s tremendously exciting to support Falkirk Council as they embrace virtual desktop and workspace technologies to boost efficiency and increase productivity. Our longstanding partnership with Falkirk Council, IGEL and Citrix goes from strength to strength with this transformation project. The never-ending rolling replacement of PCs has become a thing of the past, and users are able to access their applications and information from virtually anywhere.”

Moving forward, Falkirk Council is reviewing its office requirements. Evans concludes, “One thing that is particularly pleasing about the project is how the council has used technology to save money whilst giving staff tools to work more efficiently and effectively. We’re looking very carefully now at how we can release building assets through the use of Citrix and IGEL.”

Andrew Gee, IGEL’s VP Sales Northern Europe, says, “With all UK councils hit by budgets cuts, UDC is a smart way for them to save money and extend the life of any x86-based PC or laptop by converting them into an IGEL endpoint. It avoids perfectly good technology being thrown away. And it’s quick and simple to do with almost any device and then easy to manage using our UMS software.”

Digital transformation at the council level is crucial.

Earlier this month Citizens Online teamed up with Surrey County Council to support residents lacking digital skills, in an effort to tackle digital exclusion. West Sussex has launched a care job website to help find and apply for a variety of jobs and get information about what it’s really like to work in care.

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