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Westminster City Council moves one step closer to a silver lining

Westminster City Council has moved further towards realising its strategy of sourcing cloud solutions and services by migrating its security perimeter and third party systems into a new wide area network provided by Virgin Media Business and supported by Imerja.

The challenge

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.

The solution

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. 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 Imerja Limited to provide and migrate the security perimeter into the new WAN. The Landing Zone solution operates out of two Imerja 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 24x7 monitoring and management of the security infrastructure, Imerja ensures business critical services are always available. A modern and resilient infrastructure Ben Goward, CIO at Westminster City Council, said: "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 Imerja have been a pleasure to work with, and we now boast an enviable, modern and resilient IT infrastructure." Ian Jackson, managing director at Imerja, said: "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."

Next steps

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.

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