Westminster City Council is the local authority serving the heart of London. The City of Westminster stretches from Pimlico and Victoria in the south through the West End, Marylebone and Bayswater to Paddington and Queen’s Park in the north-west. It includes the capital’s principal areas of government, shopping, entertainment and tourism and the headquarters of innumerable commercial and professional organisations together with extensive residential areas of all types.
The resident population is approximately 230,000 but an estimated 1 million people set foot in Westminster at some time during the day. There are also tens of thousands of people who live in the City for short-periods or on a part-time basis who are not included in the resident population.
The City Council employs about 4,800 staff who work flexibly over a large number of locations, almost all of them within the City boundaries.
Westminster City Council had recognised the benefits of migrating to cloud based services for some time, and access to corporate applications via the internet or point to point data circuits increased the need for reliable secure connectivity.
The authority realised that combination of infrastructure and services would be key to such a strategy, as would the efficient take on and operation of external services that underpinned the running of council services.
To be successful the move to cloud based services required specialist security knowledge, industry awareness, flexibility to deal with third party suppliers, excellent network communications and a secure high availability environment. The solution would also need to be able to host the growing amount of third party infrastructure that was taking up space within the authority’s buildings, creating location dependences and physical access considerations.
Keen to improve its contingency and business continuity in the process, the authority also elected to move its security perimeter out of its premises and into the cloud.
In developing this “Landing Zone” service the authority combined the project investment and service migration with the procurement of a new Wide Area Network (WAN) from Virgin Media Business delivered as a next generation network (NGN) resource. The NGN is a pan-London procurement framework that provides other public sector organisations from across the region with phone, data and video technology, as well as CCTV and Wi-Fi at competitive prices. As part of this revolutionary and collaborative IT delivery framework, Westminster invested in an upgraded and improved WAN from Virgin Media Business.
“Collaboration, cost efficiency and quality service are crucial for all public sector organisations. This project ticks all the boxes for us. Virgin Media Business and Intercity have been a pleasure to work with, and we now boast an enviable, modern and resilient IT infrastructure.”
Ben Goward, CIO, Westminster City Council
The new WAN connects around 60 of the council’s buildings, including its main offices at City Hall in Victoria, to Sure Start Children’s Centres and public libraries across the borough. With speeds of up to 1 Gigabits per second (Gbps), and the potential to increase even faster, 2,500 staff will benefit from super-fast access to information and applications.
To deliver the project Virgin Media Business partnered with IT services and security specialist Intercity to provide and migrate the security perimeter into the new WAN.
The Landing Zone solution operates out of two Intercity hosting facilities located in Elstree, Hertfordshire and Bolton, Greater Manchester. Both sites already had good connectivity to the Virgin Media network, and were enhanced by the deployment of Transmode concentrators delivering n x 10Gbps capacity.
The Landing Zone hosting facilities are linked directly to each other and the Westminster City Council WAN. Each Landing Zone node has core firewalls, switch infrastructure and associated services deployed in an active / active configuration across both sites. The Landing Zone nodes operate as a single logical cluster, connections to third parties, infrastructure and services can be deployed out of one or both locations, depending on the desired level of availability. Failure of either node or related communications infrastructure can be compensated by the other node.
Providing a full managed service of the Landing Zone with 24/7 monitoring and management of the security infrastructure, Intercity ensures business critical services are always available.
“Critical applications must always be accessible for local authorities – these are services that citizens rely on. We’ve been able to ensure the availability of these connections while giving the council peace of mind that its Landing Zone is constantly monitored and maintained.”
Ian Jackson, Chief Commercial Officer, Intercity
The provision of the Landing Zone has been adopted by a number of the authority’s partners and suppliers. It has been chosen as the location for the redeployment and refresh of the telephony system, thereby releasing a saving in wide area networking costs.
It will also be location for the inter-connect between two neighbouring local authorities, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, as part of the Tri-borough initiative.