Citrix technology helps the Dutch Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM) stay ahead of the curve
Founded in 1910 and headquartered in Bilthoven, the Netherlands, Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu (RIVM), is the Dutch Institute for Public Health and Environment. This large and complex Central Government organization has many international links and a range of activities that include important research, and has played a vitally important role in the country’s fight against COVID-19.
RIVM is a busy place - with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic its workload grew dramatically and subsequently headcount increased by 1,000. The institute also provides IT services for six other smaller government organizations including the Dutch National Weather Institute which, like RIVM, uses many complex and resource hungry applications.
Not only did the COVID-19 pandemic increase headcount, but it also further complicated matters due to the work-from-home mandates, meaning that over 3,100 RIVM employees required over 700 apps delivered securely through their workplace services.
However, meeting the IT challenges of COVID-19 was not as onerous for RIVM as for many others thanks to its far-reaching vision.
In 2010, RIVM replaced its traditional environment of 1,700 physical desktop PCs with its first Citrix implementation and has consistently built on that over the years. Three years prior to the pandemic it became an early adopter of Citrix Workspace Premium Plus and was the first department of the Dutch Government to move to cloud services. It is now using Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops; and Citrix Content Collaboration, and other licensed solutions include Citrix Application Delivery Management. Implementation services were provided by Dutch IT solutions and services company, KPN alongside Citrix Consulting Services.
“We first chose Citrix because we saw that virtual desktops were the way forward and the whole Citrix experience was just better than the competition,” says RIVM’s Manager of Digital Workspace, Frank Schuler. “Years later, when COVID-19 dictated that everyone work from home, we already had the solution in place. It just worked. We didn’t have any problems apart from helping some people with their home computers or Wi-Fi. I was so happy that we were equipped with a solution like Citrix that enabled everyone to work remotely.”
Because of the nature of its work, security was another reason for choosing Citrix which has security built in to all its layers. From the start, RIVM has used a Citrix front end in the cloud, but its Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) environment resides internally, so no data leaves the data center.
The use of Citrix is helping RIVM’s 60-strong Digital Workspace IT team manage what is an increasingly sophisticated environment. The organization has a seven-tenant solution with separate Citrix cloud sites for each of its customer organizations. It runs a number of Microsoft applications including the recent adoption of Microsoft Teams; it has Nutanix hardware, both Windows and Linux systems and to cope with workforce mobility it is also switching from thin clients to laptops.
One challenge was that some old bespoke programs were hard to virtualize, but by using Citrix Virtual Apps, RIVM achieved an almost 100% success rate even for its huge and challenging geo information system.
“We are now starting a pilot to make use of the full-blown Citrix Workspace experience, including all the Citrix modules. We are currently using nearly 70% of the products and believe that the last 30% will be really effective for our clients,” adds Schuler. “It is a combined Citrix and Microsoft project, and the next step is to make Citrix Workspace the base and work from a portal. Microapps is also very important. I think it is the future because these can really make a difference when it comes to enabling efficient work.”
Top of Schuler’s list of Citrix benefits is the ease of working from any place with any device: “We are quite dependent on Citrix and if you step back and view things from the outside, it is quite remarkable that 3,100 people are now working from home without any problems.”
Uptime is helped by having its own Citrix Technical Account Manager – an important benefit because RIVM is not a standard work environment and any downtime could result in both financial and reputational damage.
Now, processes are much faster and productivity has increased. Work hours have moved away from the traditional nine to five and overall the organization is more agile and efficient. Even though the environment is more complex, IT engineers no longer have to install apps and maintain 1,700 physical computers. Where nine IT staff used to serve the laboratory needs, this is now achieved by four highly qualified people.
“I cannot imagine any other environment that manages the number of apps that Citrix works with, and you need to have that in place, or you cannot have a mature environment,” concludes Schuler. “We chose Citrix a long time ago and it has been an ongoing evolution. I am especially happy that since then, we have continued taking small steps forward and improved every time. We are still in the middle of our transformation but Citrix has the whole package, and we are confident that using the complete solution from Citrix is the way to go.”
We chose Citrix a long time ago and I am especially happy that since then, we have continued taking small steps forward and improved every time. Citrix has the whole package, and we are confident that using the complete solution from Citrix is the way to go.