An Optimal Opportunity. Mobile and Remote Working in Central and Local Government

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1 An Optimal Opportunity Mobile and Remote Working in Central and Local Government

2 2 An optimal opportunity As mobile working, IT centralisation, and cloud computing send a surge of data towards the wide area network, public sector organisations need to optimise current bandwidth to maximise productivity and minimise costs. Local and central government is being devolved to home offices around the country as mobile and flexible working gathers pace in the public sector. Planning officers, social workers, legal advisors and environmental inspectors alike are trading in their office cubicles for dining room tables and study desks as the drive to cut public spending gains momentum. According to analyst IDC 1 more than 1.2 billion people are expected to be mobile workers by 2013, representing 35 per cent of the global workforce. It s therefore not surprising that a recent CIO survey 2 cites next generation workforces as the second biggest factor driving change in As well as helping to reduce the expenditure on office space, energy and business travel, a more mobile and flexible workforce also increases productivity, aligns with green government goals and supports contingency planning. These productivity gains, however, will rapidly vanish if public sector ICT departments don t plan for the massive increase in network traffic that comes with a mobile and flexible workforce: it s not just about LAN, more can be done with WAN. With many specialist government and standard business applications not built to run over an expansive network, response times can rapidly fall resulting in poor productivity and ultimately a lower quality of service for the public.

3 3 Centralising infrastructure assets to remove cost and complexity Mobile and flexible working is just one of the IT-enabled transformations being pursued by public sector organisations as 81 billion worth of government spending cuts start to bite: IT centralisation and cloud computing are also high on the agenda. The new government ICT strategy launched by the Cabinet Office in March 2011 highlights the need for datacenter, network, software and asset consolidation and the shift towards cloud computing in creating a common ICT infrastructure. Centralising IT infrastructure assets in a single datacenter is by no means revolutionary, but has yet to become the de facto standard for public sector organisations - especially among city and county councils. With some authorities responsible for hundreds of community-based sites, such as libraries, leisure centres and schools, IT centralisation is a much bigger challenge than in the corporate sector. Given the migration effort required, many of these sites have retained their own file and mail servers. While this decentralised approach ensures high application response times and rapid data throughput, it adds both cost and complexity to IT support. Improving the quality of public services A government organisation can spend more time serving the community thanks to WAN optimisation. By deploying Steelhead appliances, the organisation has been able to provide staff in 70 remote sites with better access to central resources. Although a lot of the applications used by the government body had been written to make efficient use of bandwidth, a growing volume of rich media traffic had impacted response times. Upgrading the existing ADSL links to the remote offices to leased lines, an MPLS network or optical fibres was too costly to justify. By optimising its ADSL assets, the organisation has been able to increase performance without the need for significant capital investment. For example at one office, WAN optimisation reduced the data travelling across the ADSL connection by 70 per cent, which meant more staff could be online at the same time. The net result was that the organisation could spend more time helping the local community. As public sector ICT departments are charged with making their contribution to cost reduction, decentralised assets will increasingly be amalgamated into a single datacentre. This will immediately put yet more pressure on the WAN resulting in potential latency issues with key applications. As a result, a simple application command could take six minutes to complete compared with half a second over a LAN. Do the maths over the course of a day and this is bad news for public sector staff and the frontline services they provide.

4 4 Fast Facts: The benefits of WAN optimisation Payback period of 6.9 months with a threeyear ROI of 457 per cent Annual bandwidth bill cut by more than 600,000 per year Cost avoidance savings in excess of 480,000 due to reduced need for servers and backup hardware Restore time improved by 83 per cent Helpdesk staff handle 17 per cent fewer calls, which equates to a saving of 11.8 hours per week Each user has 15.3 hours of more productive time per year Figures are averages and are based on IDC interviews conducted in January 2010 with eight Riverbed customers using Steelhead appliances Supporting cloud adoption with optimised connectivity Latency issues could also burst the cloud computing bubble for government organisations. Billed by vendors as the saviour of cost-strapped ICT departments, cloud computing is beginning to emerge on the public sector radar both for provisioning applications and infrastructure resources. As with IT centralisation, the adoption of cloud computing will only be successful if data remains highly available and secure. According to a survey by Forrester Research 3, 69 per cent of respondents at organisations with 1,000 employees or more cited security as their biggest concern in relation to cloud computing. Although the government s G-Cloud programme may help to address these security concerns, the issue of latency remains - and will quickly undermine the benefits of this new IT delivery model and dash the high hopes for cost reduction. The government believes G-Cloud could help to slash the public sector annual IT spend by 3.2 billion by 2013/14. But if it takes staff longer to access data and applications due to sluggish network connections, this could be a false economy. Making the WAN perform like a LAN With VOIP and video-conferencing also adding to the burgeoning volume of network traffic, public sector organisations will soon be facing one giant WAN bottleneck. With many council sites comprising listed buildings, expanding the cabling infrastructure to offer more bandwidth is simply not an option. Neither is leasing more lines from external service providers given the current focus on cost reduction. Instead public sector organisations need to sweat their existing assets by making the WAN perform like a LAN. This involves optimising not only network bandwidth but also the traffic being transmitted, thereby enabling organisations to transfer more data over a smaller network connection.

5 5 WAN optimisation solutions, such as Steelhead appliances from Riverbed Technology, tackle the problem in two ways. First, they optimise everything running on a TCP/IP backbone, which sends groups of packets within a quantity window. This window transfer model combined with application protocols, such as CIFS, MAPI or HTTP, means that just one simple task can include thousands of exchanges between a user s device and the application server. For instance, dragging and dropping a 1MB file in Windows can trigger more than 4,000 round trips across the WAN. With WAN optimisation, this application chattiness is dramatically reduced through the elimination of redundant transmissions and data caching and compression. This broad-brush approach is then reinforced through the optimisation of application specific protocols, which encompass common public sector systems, including Oracle and Microsoft SQL databases, Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint and Lotus Notes, as well as key processes, such as software distribution, document management and Windows/Unix file sharing. This powerful combination can help accelerate applications running across the WAN between five and fifty times and cut the use of bandwidth by 65 to 95 per cent. Better connectivity for mobile users and cloud resources As well as using an appliance-based approach to optimise bandwidth between centralised IT infrastructure assets and dispersed offices, government organisations can take a similar approach with home workers. For WAN optimisation can also be provisioned in the form of client software, which means it can be implemented across a distributed user community and diverse connectivity methods. Compatible with virtual private networks and SSL security standards, solutions such as Steelhead Mobile are easy to deploy and offer rapid results. It s estimated that application performance for mobile workers can increase between eight and 100 times through WAN optimisation. Government organisations can make similar performance gains by applying WAN optimisation best practice to connecting users with cloud resources. Best of breed solutions will not only alleviate latency issues but also security by encrypting data both during transfer to and from a cloud environment and while it is in storage. Minimising deployment risks Although WAN optimisation can be applied as a point solution, it will often form part of a more comprehensive network or IT transformation initiative, such as datacenter consolidation, adoption of VOIP or remote access solutions. As a result, the expertise and resources needed for implementation will often stretch beyond an organisation s internal capabilities. To maximise investment in new technologies and minimise any deployment risks, public organisations should consider working with an experienced partner from the outset. This will also make it easier for ICT departments to conduct a proof of concept, which, in today s austere times, will be essential for making a business case. Facilities, such as Computacenter s Solutions Centre, enable organisations to test WAN optimisation solutions in a risk-free environment and evaluate the performance enhancements they can expect across their application portfolio in advance of making an investment decision. With the WAN becoming increasingly critical for connecting public sector staff to centralised information and applications whether they are hosted in the cloud or a central datacenter - ICT departments need to ensure they can address other problems that might impact application performance, for example a fault with a network component. To rapidly identify and address network issues, government organisations need to have a robust monitoring tool in place that offers real-time and end-to-end visibility of the WAN across multiple locations. Centralised network management solutions, such as Riverbed Cascade, not only provide this visibility but also help ICT professionals identify hotspots requiring WAN optimisation or increased bandwidth.

6 6 An enabler not an encumbrance With mobile and flexible working, IT centralisation, and cloud computing all sending a surge of data towards the WAN, optimisation will soon become a pressing priority for public sector ICT departments. As well as facilitating these and other transformations which will be key to making long-term efficiency and financial savings WAN optimisation can also help public sector organisations: Cut operational and capital expenditure on bandwidth and new hardware Enhance disaster recovery by speeding up data retrieval Remove complexity from ICT support, helping to free up resources and increase efficiency Respond more quickly to organisational and legislative change Simplify compliance with the Freedom of Information Act by providing faster access to archived files Greatly enhance end user experience By proactively addressing WAN performance challenges, ICT departments will be able to contribute to a more efficient and economical public sector. Left unchecked, the WAN could be a millstone around the neck of public sector ICT for years to come. Fast facts: Computacenter Computacenter helps public organisations develop WAN optimisation strategies that meet their individual business needs and budget. The IT services and solutions provider has more than 20 years experience in helping organisations implement, support and optimise the network. Computacenter s goal is to be the UK Public Sector s premier trusted partner for the implementation and management of ICT services and solutions, enabling the transformation of public services and the continuous improvement of the citizen s experience. With extensive infrastructure expertise, Computacenter can advise on WAN optimisation and application acceleration as part of a wider IT or network transformation. Its portfolio of Borderless Network services also include Datacenter Networking, IP Telephony & VoIP and Structured Cabling & IIMS. Find out more at: Sources: EMEA Enterprise Mobility Survey, IDC 2 State of the CIO, CIO Magazine, February Companies Building Private Clouds Focus On Infrastructure But Not Operations, James Staten, Forrester Research, November 2010

7 Computacenter (UK) Ltd Hatfield Avenue Hatfield Hertfordshire AL10 9TW United Kingdom T: +44 (0) F: +44 (0) Computacenter is a leading independent provider of IT infrastructure services and solutions. From desktop to datacentre, we help our customers minimise the cost and maximise the value of IT to their businesses. We can advise organisations on IT strategy, implement the most appropriate technology, optimise its performance, and manage elements of our customers infrastructures on their behalf. Computacenter operates in the UK, Germany, France and the Benelux countries, as well as providing transnational services across the globe. Computacenter 2010

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