As states and municipalities see dwindling revenues around the country, budgets for everything from schools to police departments to public transportation are taking hits. IT is no exception. Public-sector IT teams, like their private-enterprise counterparts, are being forced to do more with less and to come up with more efficient ways to keep their systems running and relevant.
Oklahoma City, with more than half a million residents and more than 4,000 city employees, has experienced significant budget cuts in the past two years. At the same time, the hardware and software the IT team is expected to manage has increased across the board, from fire and police services to wired and wireless networks.
"We've always been fairly small as an IT department for the size of our city. Last year we took a 14 percent cut city-wide, which, with the way IT is structured [meant] we cut 12 staff last year," Oklahoma City's IT Director Chad Meldrum says.
With 3,000 desktops running about 75 applications that the IT team supports, managing the city's infrastructure is a significant undertaking.
Really Out of Control
"When you're talking standards on desktops, we're pretty un-standard...We were really out of control as far as what we were wanting to do as IT," Meldrum says. "We did what we could, but we knew there was lots of room for improvement."
To improve the way IT was managed across various departments, the city decided to upgrade its Windows XP systems to Windows 7 and leverage Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V). Migrating to Windows 7 would give the IT team the ability to manage the city's systems through group policy and allow them to have improved control over security settings.
Manually packaging the applications that the city would need to deploy in the new operating system was a daunting task that would have taken the IT team months. So the city decided to look for an automated solution to help them prepare and deploy applications across the network.
The city chose Flexera Software's AdminStudio solution to package and deploy its applications. It integrated with Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager and provided the ability to convert to App-V. The software was able to help the IT team identify any Windows 7-related problems with the applications it was deploying, including testing for compatibility. It also helped the IT team push out applications that had non-standard configurations.
"We've mostly done IT first. I've had my upgrade to Windows 7. I think most of the benefits will be to the back-end, for us," Meldrum says. "We're trying to manage 3,500 machines with a staff of about five people. It's a huge undertaking to be able to centralize all that and be able to manage it. Building an image and having an application package is going to help us tremendously."
The deployment is well ahead of the city's scheduled Windows 7 migration targets. According to the city's client infrastructure manager Shamra Noakes, using application packaging software to help with the Windows 7 migration has saved the city about $1,300 in staff time per application, about $97,000 in total for the project.
Involving end-users in the deployment and in the decision-making process has been important to ensuring the project's success, Meldrum says.
"We've had lots of meetings with users in the departments and we've engaged with what they wanted and how they wanted to move. We're doing it the way some departments wanted to do it. We're letting them define who in their department gets migrated [first] and making sure they're fully on board with what's happening," he says. "We try to make it so that they see us as their partner and not like a central IT police."
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