National Air Traffic Services moves to virtualised desktop environment

By Sooraj Shah
26 Mar 2012 View Comments
aeroplane-postscript

National Air Traffic Service (NATS) is implementing a virtualised desktop environment in a bid to boost productivity by making it easier for staff to work remotely.

Gavin Walker, head of information solutions at NATS, said the organisation's existing infrastructure is showing its age.

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"NATS has Windows XP on its desktop PCs, which are five years old. The ageing infrastructure has affected staff performance because of delayed log-in times and several other factors," he said.

Walker said that NATS' 6,000 employees include operational, technical and general office workers, who all have different IT needs.

"Operational staff do not have dedicated desks, phones or PCs, but they do need access to IT services for general administrative tasks. Technical engineering and development teams work across multiple sites and need remote access.

"The applications are currently local to the PC but we need staff to be able to use any PC and get access to other applications. With the virtual desktop, the applications will follow the user so they can move around from one PC to another." he said.

Walker said that the new environment would also enable a bring-your-own-device scheme to be implemented across NATS, which he said should also help to boost employee productivity.

"With the current infrastructure there is flexibility but this will give them even more flexibility and therefore improve productivity," he said.

After a tender process, NATS selected virtualised solution provider Point to Point in April 2011. The project began in July 2011 with a planning and discovery phase in which Point to Point examined NATS' IT environment by testing applications, assessing the company's long-term business objectives and profiling the user base to ensure that the technologies suggested would be compatible with the IT environment.

Walker said that prior to the tender process, NATS had selected another provider but did not disclose the name of the company.

He said that Point to Point impressed him because, unlike the initial provider, it could analyse the step-by-step process of moving over to a virtual environment.

"For example, when we asked our initial provider whether the virtual environment should be hosted externally, it gave us an answer without any supporting evidence," he said.

After the discovery phase, Point to Point delivered a scaled down version of the planned desktop virtualisation system using Office 2010, which was successfully rolled out to 100 NATS staff.

Walker said that NATS hopes to start implementing the virtualised desktop in June and complete the project by September 2012.

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