With the deployment of a virtualised, consolidated infrastructure solution in the Langeberg municipality serving as a ready example of the benefits of a lean, efficient IT system other municipalities are looking at how these technologies could improve their operations.
Cape Town’s Xepa Consulting recently hosted other local government IT managers to demonstrate virtualisation and consolidation – and interest is growing says Xepa MD Garth Francis, noting that nearly 20 municipal technology managers attended the event.
“Service delivery is increasingly recognised as a flash-point for local government. Failure to perform is having serious effects across the nation; the IT department plays a pivotal role in ensuring that electricity, rates and taxes, water and other municipal services are executed accurately, billed for and records kept,” Francis says.
Through a virtualised, consolidated solution at the Langeberg municipality, Francis explains, Xepa has assisted in delivering a more efficient, easier to manage infrastructure which also delivers the benefits of greatly improved reliability and redundancy.
“What that means for the citizens of the area is that they can pay at any time, they can access records at any time in case of dispute, and councillors are able to accurately view the state of play of service delivery. And, in this flood-prone area, the setup ensures that even if something goes wrong with the primary site, the IT systems and applications continue to operate.”
The benefits of a compact, efficient and easier-to-manage infrastructure are shared by IT managers themselves, confirms Elrich Prins, Langeberg IT manager.
“With the virtualised environment the administrative load is reduced. There is no longer a need to run around to physical servers for maintenance and problem-solving, so it has had a major impact on the day to day activities of the IT staff. We can focus on the more important things, with enough time to do thorough planning for strategic direction.”
Francis adds: “We’d like to see more interest from the municipal financial managers. Through these solutions, we are able to demonstrate substantial reductions in the operational costs of local government IT; achieving effective service delivery often means achieving as much as possible with limited resources."
In smaller towns, Francis says a shared-service concept is being advanced by Xepa Consulting, supported by virtualised infrastructure environments and in which Software as a Service licensing models can play a valuable role.
“This is a definite method to control costs, centralise and improve performance and manageability of essential resources,” he says. “It builds on the concept of virtualised infrastructure supporting remotely accessed applications that deliver the reliability needed by local government, but at a lower cost.”
As a consequence of the event, Francis says more municipal IT managers have a clear idea of what virtualisation can achieve within their own environments.
“The reference site of Langeberg is invaluable as it is a real-world demonstration of the theoretical benefits of a virtualised IT department. Already, two more municipalities in the area are engaged with us to examine more closely how they – and their citizens – can benefit from a more efficient and more effective IT department."