Kent County Council is virtualising its 11,000 desktops using the VMware Horizons suite to allow better flexibility for users and cope with ever-decreasing office space.
The council previously used standard thick client PCs and a legacy Windows XP estate, but were struggling to move to Windows 7 following the support cut-off on 8 April.
Glen Larkin, lead technical architect at Kent County Council, said: “It [virtualised desktops] stops a lot of people having to come into the office. We were rationalising office space [due to budget cuts] across the 200 different business units. We will be shrinking about a third in terms of property space.”
He added: “We had such a big estate, logistically, it was impossible to get around it. We wanted to do it quickly, and started procurement in June last year.”
In October the contract was awarded to Phoenix Software Limited and VMware and the design was complete in January. The build in the datacentre finished in May, and it has now begun rolling out across the council, one of the largest in the UK.
The council hopes to save one-third of its IT efforts following the rollout. Larkin said: “Now we don't have to deploy physical resources to work on physical problems - which means resources can be better used for local services.”
Hoping to move to the cloud in April next year, Kent County Council will begin trialling VMware’s hybrid offering, but it said it is open to other vendors, like Amazon Web Services (AWS), when it comes to the procurement.
However, poor internet connection has been problematic for rural councils like Kent in the past, affecting their ability to connect reliably to cloud services.
Larkin said: “Kent is a very rural area and we do have pockets with limited connections - and sometimes the cloud isn’t right for that, but there is always going to be a workaround despite services hosted on-premise or in the cloud.”
The VMware sits on top of a SAN, a Cisco computer layer and a network layer running Microsoft and “three or four hundred or so applications”. The county council uses two datacentres; one in Maidstone under the county hall and a shared datacentre with Medway council.
The council share more than a datacentre with its neighbouring councils and local public services. When the local authorities joined forces to procure a PSN network, they decided to collaborate on a long-term basis and created “Kent Connects”, a board which discusses IT problems and has increasingly shared resources over the past 18 months.
Larkin said: “We pulled together a board with all the CIOs of all organisations working at a strategic level and all the CTOs working at a technical level and we share.
“For example Medway council may not have the technical architect, project managing and business analyst skills, so we can share ours. Sometimes we may not have enough network engineers so we may borrow those. On a technology level we all share datacentres and a common network.”
This includes all public sector services including the NHS and the emergency services.