Access anytime, anywhere

Citrix's approach to delivering applications fits the needs of a Florida child welfare program

PROJECT: Virtual application delivery.

AGENCY: State of Florida.

PARTNERS: Citrix Systems Inc. and Florida's Statewide Guardian ad Litem
Program.

GOAL: To consolidate and unify the technology used at 54 offices statewide.

OBSTACLES: The newly consolidated organization didn't have the money or
employees to build, maintain and manage a traditional network.

SOLUTION: Application delivery from Citrix was selected to replace a traditional network structure.

PAYOFF: Four people manage the system, and employees can access applications and data from any computer connected to the Internet.

Children in Florida who suffer
abuse, abandonment or neglect
are assigned an advocate from the
Statewide Guardian ad Litem
Program to make sure the minors
have someone looking out for
their welfare.

The program has 54 offices
organized under the state's 20
judicial circuits. During the program's
26-year history, each of the
state's circuits operated the offices
independently.

In 2004, the program was
removed from under the umbrella
of the state Supreme Court and
made independent. The newly
consolidated program operates
from Tallahassee, and one of its
first missions was to unify and
standardize the offices' technology,
said Johnny White, chief information officer
for the Statewide Guardian ad Litem
Program.

White said he discovered that each of
the state's 20 judicial circuit offices had
varying technology infrastructures. E-mail,
networks, hardware and more were not
standardized.

"Every office was different, and we wanted
to consolidate the program's information,
e-mail, data and other things," White said.
"We had to build a network, but we were
limited in the resources and money."

After considering several ways to build
the network, officials decided that delivering
Web-based applications via virtualized
servers would be the best fit.

They chose Citrix Systems Inc.'s XenApp
for the project. XenApp is a Microsoft
Windows-based application delivery system
that has both client-side and server-side
application virtualization. The architecture
lets organizations centralize applications
and data in secure data centers.

XenApp eliminates the need to install or
manage applications on individual devices,
making application testing, provisioning,
management and support easier and less
costly.

"Citrix is about delivering applications to
any person on any device anywhere and
doing it easily and cost-effectively," said
David Podwojski, director of Citrix's state
and local government and education
business.

The flexibility was important to Florida
officials because the program's nearly 850
employees are spread throughout the state.

"XenApp means that any person in the
world can virtually use any computer or
computing device that will provide them
with a browser," Podwojski said.

"They connect that browser to the source
of the applications and use [it] as if it were
resident on that device," he said. "It doesn't
matter whether that device inherently has the ability to run those applications or not
because they run on a server at some remote
location."

Another plus is that when users log off a
computer or device, no data is left on it, so a
lost or stolen computer does not become a
security risk.

For the Statewide
Guardian ad Litem
Program, building a
traditional network
with a server at each
office and T1 lines connecting
those offices
would have been too
expensive and difficult
to manage.

"Just the monthly and yearly recurring
connectivity costs and the staff costs were
more than we had," White said. "At the time,
it was just myself, and we had just under
400 employees. So it was going to be difficult
for a barely nothing IT staff and little
money to support such a large network."

T1 lines for each of the 54 offices would
have cost about $900 a month per office.
One advantage White had was the
Internet network for state government
offices. With Citrix, the program's offices
could use that network or other county-run
Internet-based networks to connect to the
Citrix system in Tallahassee.

The program's Citrix system runs on a
Microsoft backbone network with Windows
2003 Servers.

The other cost the
office couldn't afford
was maintaining and
upgrading traditional
PCs. With Citrix, application
upgrades and
patches are done on
the server, not the individual
computers. And
because the computers only have to run a
Web browser, they do not need to be upgraded
at the normal three- to four-year interval.

"As far as staffing, we were looking at having
two to three people, depending on the
size of the circuit, staffing each circuit,"
White said. "You're talking an extra 30 to 40
people just to support the network, which
we couldn't afford."

With Citrix, four people manage the
entire network from Tallahassee.
The virtualization system also serves as
the office's continuity-of-operations plan,
White said. As long as the system's servers
are protected, employees can access the data
and applications they need via any computer
and Internet connection.

Employees access an office suite with
Citrix and a few homegrown applications,
including a case management system and a
time sheet and time management system.

White said moving away from a traditional
information technology infrastructure can
be difficult for organizations.

He recommends that government agencies
and their systems integrator partners
examine how money is being spent to manage
systems. If too many resources are going
into upgrading and patching desktop PCs,
officials should consider some sort of application
delivery system.

Despite some initial concerns about the
user experience, the approach has worked
for the guardian program, White said.

"We've found they really can't tell the difference
between being on a traditional network
versus getting those resources from Citrix."

Doug Beizer (dbeizer@1105govinfo.com) is a staff
writer at Washington Technology.

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