Aylesbury Vale District Council and Arcus Global: A Winning Partnership in Cloud Innovation

Aylesbury Vale District Council’s Innovation Strategy Wins National Improvement and Efficiency Award 2015

This year at the national IESE awards, Aylesbury Vale District Council (AVDC) gained first place in the award category ‘Transforming Local Services for the Cloud IT Programme’. The award recognises the hard work and dedication of a great IT Team, and the innovation shown by senior decision makers. AVDC gave credit to their partner Arcus Global who enabled and supported the strategy and project delivery from day one.

Aylesbury District Council like many local authorities in the UK were under increasing pressure to deliver operational efficiency; this required moving and rationalizing part of their IT infrastructure, decommissioning their data centre and finding an innovative solution to enable a secure, faster and cheaper hosting for their legacy applications.

Aylesbury Vale looked at ways to accomplish this from the more traditional IT and application solutions to new technologies. Innovation was key in delivering a long-term strategy and so they worked with their strategic technology partner, Arcus Global, to develop a strategy that was competitively priced and available via G-Cloud. Alan Evans, Head of ICT for Aylesbury Vale District Council said: “Procurement through the G-Cloud framework was rapid and efficient and engaging Arcus Global, proved beneficial to us. We have an established relationship lasting over 5 years and this trust was crucial to us.” Aylesbury Vale chose Arcus Global as the company’s ethos fitted in with their need to find a smarter way to do things. Arcus Global came up with a proposal that would deliver significant current and long-term savings and at the same time improve resilience and facilitate mobile working.

The initial project required AVDC to move their data and application stack from Buckinghamshire county council’s server environment to a cost effective and easy accessible cloud environment. This would enable Aylesbury Vale greater flexibility and scalability and save them a significant proportion of total costs, with full remote access and built in DR. A reduction in hardware meant a reduction in the local authorities’ carbon footprint, power cooling, and the number of ICT Staff required to run the facility.

Achieving these changes meant that Arcus Global came up with a strategy to move AVDC’s existing Virtual Machines to a Public Infrastructure as a Service (Cloud) environment. Amazon Web Services was selected as the platform of choice, given its superior performance, flexibility and lower cost. As with many local government organisations there were a myriad of systems in use, from VMWare, Microsoft, Local Council specific applications such as waste, parking and similar systems, Citrix XenApp based virtual desktop environment, printing, back-up and similar services. Arcus Global have performed a detailed audit of AVDC’s IT environment, service needs and network configuration. They were then ready to start the process of migrating all client servers, applications and data across to the AWS cloud.

“Amazon Web Services was an obvious choice given its breadth of services, maturity of the offering and lowest cost. Ability to migrate aging platforms and set up Direct Connect was also a key factor. Most importantly, AWS was able to offer the biggest cost advantage, without requiring the council to be tied down to long term commercial commitment.” - Alan Evans, Head of ICT for AVDC

The council had to operate as normal and continue providing services to their residents. Arcus Global designed a migration approach that allowed the authority to minimize disruption, and in most cases, users and residents weren’t even aware that a change had taken place.

Connectivity is key to a good user experience and the Arcus team wanted to make sure that a fast dedicated link would be available. Arcus introduced the AWS Direct Connect Service which they used to provide a dedicated, high speed, secure connection between Aylesbury Vale council premises and the AWS cloud. This has delivered a fast dedicated link providing the council with an excellent level of service and connectivity, while maintaining the highest level of security possible, helping AVDC to remain PSN compliant.

Andrew Grant is Aylesbury Vale District Council’s Chief Executive Officer, and he was impressed with the way Arcus worked as a partner with other suppliers.

“Arcus was a real partner to AVDC during the project. Despite delays caused by other suppliers, they have stepped up, and shown commitment and flexibility, maintaining the partnering approach, and agreeing to reduce costs so that we remain within the original budget envelope.”

Arcus Global has a policy of working with the right suppliers and partners to integrate the best solutions into one seamless service offering, Recognizing that local authorities are already working with suppliers and partners is essential and Arcus works to leverage these relationships, to deliver the plan on-time and within budget. Alan commented:

“Arcus worked creatively with 3rd party suppliers and resolved all potential roadblocks. Despite unforeseen challenges, they still delivered the whole programme for the agreed fixed cost".

Arcus Global designed and delivered an innovative an affordable plan, which enabled AVDC to become a highly agile and cost effective authority. The AWS solution provided increased flexibility in services, ease of access for remote users, reduced their infrastructure burden and provide a solution that makes future changes fast and economical.

“Arcus Global has migrated our entire Virtual Desktop environment to the cloud with AWS, saving us in the region 30% of running costs in the process.” - Alan Evans, Head of ICT for AVDC

A truly digital solution is now in place. Overall, the authority has made significant savings, and has a flexible, robust and secure solution for years to come. AVDC is now able to focus on providing services to its residents, instead of running its data centre. Alan Evans in conclusion:

“We have a productive, trusting and collaborative relationship stretching over 5 years. Arcus Global is the only AWS UK partner with deep knowledge of Local Government systems and experience in the sector. Coupled with Arcus Global’s commitment to AVDC savings and an offer of a low, fixed cost project, the choice was obvious.”

About AVDC:

Aylesbury Vale covers 350 square miles of leafy, Buckinghamshire countryside and is home to some 181,000 people, making it the third largest district in the country. Quality of life in Aylesbury Vale ranks as one of the highest in the country. And if you ask the people who live and work here what’s great about the area, they’re likely to mention the balance it offers between town and country, its sense of community, schools and low crime rate. Not to mention its charming villages and market towns, its stately homes, gardens, and canals. Aylesbury Vale is one of the fastest growth areas in the south east and will continue to benefit from housing, infrastructure and business development across the district.