Application virtualization drives efficiencies for childcare centres

Goodstart Early Learning boosts application responsiveness with virtualization

National day care not-for-profit Goodstart Early Learning has completed an overhaul of its software setup across its 650 or so centres across Australia.

Goodstart provides education services for some 73,000 children and employs around 15,000 staff at its centres.

ICT manager Simon Hartfiel said the childcare chain had deployed a mix of application virtualization and desktop virtualization to improve performance and management of the 2500 or so corporate devices at Goodstart's centres and corporate headquarters.

Because all of Goodstart's day-care centres are overwhelmingly in residential areas, they are limited to consumer-grade Internet connectivity to connect back to the head office, with speeds and latency varying depending on the time of day.

Goodstart has two key applications deployed in its centres: QIKKIDS, an industry-standard application used for tasks such as collecting revenue and marking rolls of attendance, and KRONOS, software for workforce time and attendance management.

QIKKIDS is a client-server application, Hartfiel said. Before virtualizing it using Citrix's XenApp, it would "take upwards of 30 minutes from clicking on a button to displaying results". "Pretty bad," he added. QIKKIDS has a fat client executable but was designed to run on a LAN.

"So when it's run across a WAN, it does a lot of data transfers. When you select the screen that has all the roll entries, it will download a large amount of data, which is why the performance wasn't too flash at the [client] end."

"It put the people on the client-facing end of the business in unpleasant situations when a parent comes in and says 'Can you please print me out a statement', for example," Hartfiel said.

"It seems a simple thing but when it takes half an hour to get a print out of a statement, it's not a good outcome for the centre, and definitely doesn't leave the parent with a good taste in their mouth."

Deploying XenApp means that the application can now be streamed from Goodstart's central data centre, substantially improving performance and reducing staff frustration. A survey of the organisation's staff found that 90 per cent of respondents thought that QIKKIDS' performance had improved. In addition, Hartfiel said, data security had been increased by using virtualization, with encrypted data transfer between the centres and the organisation's data centre

In the corporate HQ, Hartfiel's team has deployed a mix of XenApp and full desktop virtualization (Citrix's XenDesktop)

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