Bunbury’s private cloud push presages regional hosting role

By GovTechReview Staff
Friday, 05 April, 2013

A major systems and data-centre overhaul at the Western Australian City of Bunbury has not only improved the city’s operating efficiency, but has its executives eyeing long-term opportunities as a hosting provider for other regional councils hit by the IT skills crunch.

Bunbury recently adopted IBM’s PureSystems architecture to overhaul more than 35 legacy application servers, which had been moved intact into the data centre the city constructed over two years ago.

In a fast-tracked implementation, Bunbury and integration partner Stott + Hoare were able to migrate the old servers onto the IBM PureFlex server – which combines a server, IBM Storwize V7000 storage, networking and software into a modular and manageable unit – in just over a month.CC BY-SA 3.0 by BMorey, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bunbury_03.jpg

Bunbury’s new, virtualised environment has not only simplified the architecture of its enterprise applications, but paved the way for an ongoing virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) implementation that will ultimately centralise around 300 user desktops in a cloud-like hosting model that lets them run from anywhere.

“Virtualisation makes it very easy for my team to manage the infrastructure because it’s centralised,” Bunbury CIO Mike Fletcher told GTR. “Because local governments are so diverse – for instance, the sports centre operates totally differently to the library – each of those dynamics needs to have a lot of thought and consideration prior to implementing. But I don’t believe end users notice the difference with VDI; to them, it’s just a desktop.”

The project is one of numerous technological changes at Bunbury, with other implementations ranging from an upgrade of the council’s recordkeeping system – which now supports video and unstructured data alongside conventional structured information – and an effort to improve disaster-recovery capabilities.

The city has also implemented around 50 Apple iPads for staff, who can access council systems and their VDI desktops through the tablets. These are expected to become facilitators for more flexible work as the national broadband network (NBN) snakes its way into the area, improving connectivity to employees’ homes.

“With the NBN and the cloud environment, there are great opportunities for mobility,” Fletcher says.

Despite the process improvements from the recent implementations, the city also has a long-term plan: with its new data centre in place and plenty of excess capacity after the completion of Bunbury’s systems migration, the city anticipates offering its VDI and server infrastructure to other councils on a hosted basis.

This approach will not only offer lower ongoing costs, Fletcher explains, but will help councils address ICT skills shortages in an area where they have hit hard. “We all know the industry is changing and becoming extremely complex,” he says.

“Finding skilled people to manage these technologies is not easy. Similar sized councils are recognising these issues, and smaller councils effectively would have no hope of delivering those types of services. With our excess capacity in racks, capacity and storage, it’s not too difficult for us to then host other councils in the cloud environment.” – David Braue

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