Best of 2019: Program Fortify: Cenitex's customer-driven transformation

By Jonathan Nally
Monday, 23 December, 2019

Best of 2019: Program Fortify: Cenitex's customer-driven transformation

Cenitex, the Victorian Government’s shared-services ICT agency, is modernising its customers’ networking, data and desktop environments.

Cenitex is a Melbourne-based provider of ICT services for 37,000 Victorian public servants across most major Victorian Government departments. Established as a shared-service state-owned enterprise in 2008, it is governed by a board, has approximately 550 staff and turns over around $170 million per year.

To improve the reliability, resilience and security of its core infrastructure, Cenitex has embarked on a project called Program Fortify, utilising technology from VMware. Program Fortify was launched at the start of the 2018–19 financial year and will see an investment of about $30 million over a two-year period.

“When complete in December 2019, Program Fortify will deliver greatly enhanced service resilience, lower costs, the ability to be far more responsive to our customers and a range of services that better support the changing needs of our customer base,” said Michael Vanderheide, CEO of Cenitex.

Cenitex originally developed Program Fortify as a program to deliver more cost-effective, resilient services for its customers. Since then, it has further developed into a fully integrated, hybrid cloud solution.

While Program Fortify encompasses networking and cloud initiatives, it also involves automating workflows and processes in the VMware environment to make it easier for departments and agencies to consume and manage services. Additionally, the project will improve the desktop experience for public servants via a Digital Workplace service that will deliver rapid access to applications, information and cloud services from anywhere on any device.

Program Fortify has four main streams:

  • Software-defined data centre — based on hyper-converged infrastructure with significant inherent resilience and redundancy as well as native automation capability.
  • Software-defined networking — enabling higher levels of cybersecurity and the ability to adapt more rapidly to new customer requirements for service.
  • Smart Internet Gateway — providing Cenitex’s customers access to the internet and cloud-based services such as Office 365 directly and securely without traversing Cenitex’s data centres.
  • Digital Workplace — based on VMware’s Workspace One service.

Software-defined data centre

Program Fortify began with a focus on the software-defined data centre, using VMware Validated Design for SDDC, which enables optimisation of expansion and integration capabilities through incorporation of a range of products for a wide set of use cases.

VMware’s vSphere enables Cenitex to connect and secure applications in a common operating environment across the hybrid cloud. The fully virtualised infrastructure enables a move to software-defined services, as well as a greater consolidation of virtual machines and automation, with a vital building block of the system being VMware’s vSAN flash-optimised storage.

The software-defined data centre enables Cenitex to easily expand into the cloud and service its public sector customers quickly with a standardised environment, as well as providing ‘self-service’ features for the purchase and management of services.

“In today’s environment, government agencies are increasingly digitised and need an IT service that will help them navigate through this with ease. Our customers are providing a community service and we want to enhance this through an innovation mindset, which we will be able to do in partnership with VMware,” said Nav Pillai, General Manager, Design & Development, Cenitex.

Software-defined networking

Cenitex operates a software-defined network running on VMware’s NSX, which enables it to have a fully virtualised networking solution with built-in security. The NSX virtualisation platform’s attributes give Cenitex’s IT experts visibility into users and activity on the network, without having to add a security layer on top. Traditional firewalls that once took weeks to provision are now inherent in the network.

Cloud services

VMware Cloud on AWS will enable Cenitex to decrease its physical data centre footprint, while providing enhanced scalability and expansion capabilities. VMware’s vRealize Automation will help Cenitex accelerate ticket time and reallocate resourcing to solve its customer’s IT problems, reducing manual processes. The cloud system also boosts disaster recovery capabilities for critical customer applications.

But the move to the new system does not mean Cenitex will be entirely doing away with its own data centres; it will not be a complete move to the cloud.

“While cloud-based services are very much part of what we do today, our customers will continue to host many of their business applications in our data centres for a long time to come,” Vanderheide said.

“What Program Fortify offers is a path to the cloud that is wholly non-reliant on our data centres and an environment for business applications that remain in our data centres that is more resilient and lower cost.”

Desktop environment

A vital part of Program Fortify is transforming Cenitex’s customers’ experience using VMware Horizon and Workspace One. Horizon delivers virtual or remote desktops and apps through a single VDI, easily, securely and on demand. Workspace One is being used to build Cenitex’s new Digital Workplace, a process which is in alignment with the Victorian Government’s digital workplace strategy.

Due for activation in July 2019, the Digital Workplace will provide Cenitex’s customers the ability to access data, apps and cloud services from any location and with any device. Cenitex’s teams will be able to access information on device health, see its location, encrypt and restrict access to data, and protect sensitive information.

Going live

As of May, Cenitex was piloting Project Fortify services internally, with an expectation that the pilot would be extended to its customers in June. “We expect to have the service available on our catalogue for customers to consume in July,” Vanderheide said.

“We’re delivering a better customer experience through a service that is responsive, resilient and cost-effective, and adaptable enough to meet their changing needs,” he added. “They expect technological innovation that will provide them with reliable, accessible services well into the future.”

Vanderheide said the public will benefit because it will be served by a government that is using IT that is highly resilient, available via any device, in any location and which enables collaboration among different government departments far more easily than is the case today.

He added that Cenitex’s work with VMware has helped it reach a critical turning point in its digital transformation journey.

“We can now provide mission-critical services more efficiently to our government customers which service the people of Victoria. At the completion of this project, we will be delivering a truly digital government experience that positions us as an agency leading the way not just in Australia, but globally.”

Pictured: Michael Vanderheide, CEO of Cenitex. Courtesy Cenitex.

This article was first published on 3 June, 2019.

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