Citrix Virtual Apps platform delivers key applications for all local government units in Lublin (Poland). Citrix technology is used to securely and reliably deliver work tools for thousands of users
The journey with providing virtual applications began in Lublin a few years ago. Lublin City Hall uses many applications with specific technical requirements. One of them is a financial and budgeting subsystem, which is part of the integrated management system for self-government entities. For proper operation on end users' computers this software needs a specific Java version, and it is sensitive to versions of browsers and operating systems.
"When the need arose to make financial applications available to entities subordinated to the City Hall in connection with the centralization of municipal VAT settlements, we became interested in the possibilities of virtual applications delivery. Practically, there was no other option. We were not able to control hundreds of computers used in geographically dispersed organization units, in which IT specialists are not always employed. Tests of Citrix technology, were successful, which is why we purchased licenses and implemented the solution" - says Grzegorz Hunicz, Director of the IT and Telecom Department, Lublin City Hall.
Thanks to Citrix technology, it was possible to "freeze" the environment in which applications run and to guarantee that they will run on users devices, regardless of the hardware manufacturer or operating system.
"Users can run applications in seamless mode or through the browser by clicking the links in the available application portals "- explains Bartłomiej Kwaśniewski, IT and Telecom Department, Lublin City Hall.
Initially, one application was delivered to 100 organizational units and as the project was successful, more new applications were added quickly. Virtual application delivery using Citrix technology has now become a standard throughout the municipality.
"Today, Citrix technology is the core of our production environment. Without the capabilities for reliable and secure delivery of virtual applications, we would be doomed to a time-consuming and costly redevelopment of the architecture of our solutions " says Grzegorz Hunicz.
Two years ago, when the City Hall launched the project "Development and implementation of an integrated IT system for educational entities of the City of Lublin", there was no doubt that Citrix Virtual Apps software could bring value in this scenario.
The project, co-financed with European funds under the Regional Operational Program of the Lubelskie Voivodship for the years 2014-2020, assumed the implementation of a central system for comprehensive service of municipal educational entities. The goal was to support education management in the organizational and didactic sphere, enable the development of e-services and also allow for the expansion of the existing financial and accounting system and the connection of educational entities to the municipal broadband network. Replacing local applications with a central system, in addition to achieving technological maturity, was aimed at increasing work efficiency. One source of data translates into delivering more reliable information, while reducing the expenditure required for entering or correcting it.
The municipality of Lublin has more than 200 organizational units, of which 160 are educational institutions. Each of them now has access to the financial and accounting system delivered from the new platform.
Most entities have already been connected to the Citrix environment. Basic applications, such as electronic grade books or systems supporting the school secretary's offices, are already available. Work is still underway with internal systems, such as HR and payroll subsystems.
"Apart from adding new applications, we are expanding the original implementation of Citrix Virtual Apps. Initially, only applications related to VAT and budget reporting were provided. Now the full functionality of the ERP system will be delivered" - says Grzegorz Hunicz.
Thanks to several years of experience with application virtualization, the operation of ERP software in the Citrix environment was already well recognized. For purposes of the new educational project, Lublin City Hall ordered some additional modifications of the applications, which were delivered by their vendors.
Lublin, called the capital of Eastern Poland, is the administrative, economic, and cultural center of the region. It is the largest and fastest growing city in this part of the country, and the Polish gate to Eastern Europe. Today, the city has nearly 350,000 residents, and annually it is visited by thousands of tourists. Lublin is also one of the leading academic centers in the country. Almost 70,000 students, not only from Poland, come here to study .
"Now, six physical servers working as the cluster nodes - upon which there are installed a dozen of so-called workers - are responsible for providing applications to end users. Throughout the environment workload is controlled using Citrix ADC devices. They enable load balancing and also provide SSL session support, which means that encryption takes place at the boundary of the browser’s contact with the device, so there’s no need for running additional VPN client software" - says Rafał Śliwiński, IT and Telecom Department, Lublin City Hall.
The solution is easily scalable. When new users appear, you simply add another server to the environment, and the ADC devices will distribute the load in the most efficient way. After the completion of the educational project, which is planned for July 2020, the Citrix environment will provide applications for nearly a thousand users in the Lublin City Hall alone, and for a total of 8,000 users, including subordinate units. Applications are available through a special portal called StoreFront. In total, it includes over 35 different tools, most of which are software for educational institutions. After logging in to the portal, the user simply clicks on the link to the selected application. It may run with the help of the small Citrix client software or in the browser. If the user has no special needs, for example, they need to scan documents from a local scanner, then the web browser itself is enough for comfortable work.
Thanks to the implementation of Citrix technology the IT and Telecom Department of the Lublin City Hall has become immune to difficulties with maintaining applications. Without the Citrix solution, they would need an army of people, looking after thousands of workstations, on a regular basis across many locations. Users have quickly got used to the new standard. Today, virtual applications served from the Citrix platform are a natural work environment for them.
Now, it does not really matter which browser users prefer or what operating system they have installed on their computer. An additional advantage is the fact that IT specialists from the City Hall can easily join a user session and solve problems with applications at any time. Session monitoring also permits detection of bottlenecks and proactive prevention of failures.
During the coronavirus outbreak, the Citrix solution also proved its abilities to support remote working. Some employees have permission to perform tasks away from the office. They do not have to connect to the city infrastructure using a VPN. Citrix Virtual Apps not only provides adequate data protection, but also comfort associated with the ease of a rapid change of workplace and unification of the workspace on different devices.
Higher security level
As remote work is performed in a terminal-like environment, applications and data are protected even if the end user's computer leaves much to be desired in terms of cyber hygiene. End devices do not download any files or sensitive information locally, which reduces the risk of data leakage. This is of great importance in the context of the GDPR. At the same time, the implemented solution ensures full accountability for accessing the data and integration with the used domain environment.
One of the key benefits of using Citrix technology is its simple operation. Every day, the entire infrastructure for providing virtual applications is administered by only 3 out of 50 specialists working in the IT and Telecom Department of the Lublin City Hall. They are responsible for stability and maintenance as well as load balancing. Given the scale of the environment, this is a major challenge. Especially in the context of reliability, which requires constant monitoring. Integrating the implemented platform with log collection systems turned out to be an important facilitation, permitting deep diagnosis of events.
Help for users is provided by several helpdesk employees responsible for the first- and second-line support. The fact that all users are in Active Directory also diminishes the burden for administrators. People are assigned to groups. When the manager of a unit adds users to the appropriate group, they will automatically get access to the applications they need.
Citrix has also proved to be the right choice in the context of more prosaic management functions. The IT and Telecom Department did not have extra tools for resetting passwords that expire after 30 days. Thanks to Citrix Virtual Apps, the users log in to the portal and reset the passwords on their own.
Today, Citrix technology is the core of our production environment. Without the capabilities for reliable and secure delivery of virtual applications, we would be doomed to a time-consuming and costly redevelopment of the architecture of our solutions
administrators of the Citrix environment
employees of IT and Telecom Department
organizational units subordinate to the City Hall
employees of the Lublin City Hall with access to IT system
total number of IT systems users