Australia's Treasury Department plans to revamp its approach to end-user computing to respond to an increasingly mobile workforce, laying out a path to virtualise its desktop applications for delivery on mobile platforms.
Whilst preparing for a scheduled refresh of its existing four-year-old desktop assets, Treasury took the opportunity to re-examine its approach to the mobile delivery of corporate data and applications.
The review resulted in the decision to bring the agency up to speed with the modern workforce by virtualising its core desktop applications to enable mobile workers more flexibility and choice in the way they work.
"We’re looking to take Treasury a whole bunch of steps forward and look at how we can make the workforce more agile and flexible to be able to work from anywhere, and deliver productivity improvements through the compute we offer," Treasury CIO Peter Alexander told iTnews.
The year-long project will involve four key elements:
- virtualised desktop - based on Treasury’s existing Windows 7 SOE - to deliver an in office-like desktop experience to mobile devices;
- application mobility platform, for users to access corporate apps via an app store-like interface;
- secure mobile data distribution solution, to enable distribution of corporate info to devices in conjunction with Treasury’s existing AirWatch mobile device management solution; and
- application virtualisation - one platform to deliver apps to all environment, which will become the Treasury standard. An “initial set” of apps will be virtualised and provisioned to the virtual desktop in the project.
The virtual desktop solution will initially be delivered to 50 external mobile users, and is expected to be extended to internal staff in a separate project.
The project's goal is to introduce an end-user mobility platform that will allow Treasury to adapt quickly to a changing end-user landscape and enhance the range of services accessible to mobile users.
"At the moment we’re desktop first, and mobility is kind of a nice add-on. What we’re doing is reversing that paradigm and saying we’ll build for mobile first, and desktop will run pretty much the same as mobiles do," Alexander said.
"One possibility is you could end up running a zero client with a screen and run your desktop through that, and don’t need a PC. Or we can dock tablets.
'But it’s premised on saying we’re going from fixed desktop to mobility - that’s our new paradigm, flexibility is our new paradigm. People should be able to walk around the building, go to a meeting room on their device, and nothing has changed in their experience."
The project also aims to reduce the time it takea to provision access to apps and data, and the cost and time associated with the delivery of new apps and on-boarding users.
Treasury workers currently use an older version of Citrix XenApp for remote access, secured with RSA security tokens on mobile devices.
"We’ve been using Citrix for a while and we’ve been quite happy with it. It works quite effectively but to do what we want to do we’d have to scale it up. It’s not virtualised applications in the true sense," Alexander said.
"If you’re trying to use [our current version of] Citrix on a mobile phones, it’s a disaster."
The department’s mobile users - some who use a Treasury-provisioned Apple or BlackBerry device, and others who bring their own mix of iOS, Android and Windows devices - are subject to the controls of an AirWatch mobile device management system.
Treasury currently has around 25 percent of its 1000-odd workforce on a Treasury-supplied device.
"The ideal would be everyone would have a Treasury-supplied device or a personal device they could access applications and the network with," Alexander said.
The department will focus first on virtualising its high-volume applications, predominantly its suite of Microsoft apps, which are the "workhorse" of Treasury's desktop operations.
It will also take the opportunity to rationalise a number of applications, with around 100 of its 300-odd applications set to go.
"We’ve already done a fair bit but we’ve got a range of applications that support systems - one example is the parliamentary workflow system that we use for ministerial correspondence, that’s moving to a whole-of-government system," Alexander said.
"We run seven apps to do the same thing that does internally."
The project is expected to run for at least a year from June, with a possible one year extension.