Defence to roll out virtual next generation desktops

Thin clients to reduce complexity for end-users, support costs for IT division

The Department of Defence will start deploying virtualised thin clients across its user base by the end of 2011.

Defence is currently seeking a contractor to tender a thin client solution, with trials looking to commence for 500 users early next year.

The thin client data and applications will be hosted in several data centres, but will have an "offline mode" for roaming users.

Interest in a thin client solution has been evident for some time, with chief technology officer Matt Yannopoulous recently saying it was key to the department retaining control over its IT environment.

"The key enabler in getting control over our disparate environments is the adoption of adherence to this enterprise architecture," he told the Australian Computer Society 2010 Canberra conference earlier this year.

The Department primarily uses a mixture of traditional PC clients running Windows XP, with a Windows Server 2003 back-end. Ten per cent of the user base also utilise server-based clients over Citrix XenApp 4.5, made up of thin clients, remote access users as well as Linux and Sparc-based systems.

Defence also runs two security networks - restricted and secret - which require different PCs in order to access each. According to documents from the department, 15,000 of the its 75,000-strong user base utilise both, and require at least two PCs on their desk.

The inefficiency of this system was flagged in the Defence Information and Communications Technology Strategy report released last year and reiterated by Yannopoulous, who described the current situation as not best practice.

"There is a desk [in one office] there that has seven computers on it, five monitors and four telephones," he said. "It's secure; the information cannot be passed between any of those things. The poor person who has to operate it, though, imagine the complexity they're dealing with in all of the information coming together.

"We expect the humans to do the integration, we've got to move away from that. We've go to present the different information domains - because they are there for very good security reasons - to get it back to one interface."

Under the revamped ICT environment, users would be able to access both the restricted and secret networks from the one device, depending on their location and user privileges.

The deployment is part of a wider reform worth $940 million that aims to save $1.9 billion of ICT spending over the next ten years. Other aspects of the reform include the consolidation of 200 data centres to ten and consolidating telecommunications providers.

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