Waltham Forest using virtualisation for substantial savings

The London Borough of Waltham Forest has signed a £4.3 million infrastructure overhaul contract with IT services provider 2e2, as it moves to a virtualised setup that is fully hosted.

The contract, which is for three years, with an option for a two-year extension, supports the council’s ‘One Infrastructure’ programme and is aimed at generating substantial savings. Supplier 2e2 agreed, before the weekend, to acquire services firm Morse for £70 million.

Under the transformation programme, Waltham Forest Council will replace its end-of-life systems with a new IT infrastructure that will provide a foundation for more efficient and flexible working, and enable the transformation of working practices and processes.

2e2 will provide virtualised applications and servers, hosted datacentre services, network provisioning, migration to Microsoft Exchange and storage infrastructure.

Graham Bell, head of ICT at Waltham Forest Council, said: “The aim is for the council to have no more infrastructure in its offices. We have at the moment end-of-life estate and a server with a fairly ageing environment. We also have an end-of-life email service that doesn’t fit into our transformation strategy.

“[With this contract] all our infrastructure will be hosted. We will only have network infrastructure.”

The hosting also enables the council to reduce costs and free up space in its buildings, which falls under its “Accommodation Strategy”. According to a document, ICT Strategy 2010, in which Waltham Forest outlined its transformation plans, the council’s existing data centre server rooms are located across a number of its buildings, in poor quality rooms. As 2e2 will host the servers off-site, the council will then have more space, which can be refurbished.

The council currently has an “eclectic” mix of equipment, including HP, Compaq and Dell. It operates Windows XP in its desktops and a Windows 2003 server, as well as “a couple of Unix boxes”.

“That’s being replaced by a blade infrastructure, though the vendor for that is to be finalised,” said Bell.

Waltham Forest will also upgrade its desktop software to Windows 7, its servers to Windows 2008 and install Microsoft Office and Exchange 2010.

Bell said that the contract was relatively cheap, compared with a larger supplier like IBM, because it is flexible.

“The contract is very flexible in scaling up and down. We have limited resources in the council, and we are using this contract to support the limited resources by virtualising the services, and allow the limited resources to provide a better service to the council.

“I was very keen not to outsource in a blanket way,” he said.

Waltham Forest Council employees 53 IT staff, which is half or two-thirds the size of IT teams at other comparable boroughs, Bell added.

In its ICT Strategy 2010 document, dated 11 February, the council said it was reviewing its major existing IT contracts with BT, Dell and Logica, with an aim to rework or cease contracts in order to cut costs.

Furthermore, the council’s existing contract for network services is coming to an end in the summer of 2011. It added that “central” to the infrastructure overhaul is the migration from Novell to Microsoft. It also plans to moves its central directory services from Novell’s eDirectory to Microsoft’s Active Directory, to help integrate its systems. Active Directory will also enable the council to link its ICT user records with SAP HR data.

Last week, Highland Council awarded a £75 million contract to Fujitsu for an overhaul of its IT.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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