Parliamentary service, which looks after the information system used by all parliamentarians excluding ministers, is migrating up to 50 MPs to Citrix WinFrame.
Parliamentary service information services and communications manager John Preval says Citrix WinFrame has boosted performance, reduced total cost of ownership and eased management of the remaining 386 PCs in use by MPs. It has also meant that parliamentary service has been able to hold off purchasing new hardware.
Parliamentary service runs a range of 386 , 486 and Pentium PCs, and during the past three months those machines that could be upgraded were switched to Windows 95. The problem of what to do with the 386 users running Windows 3.11 remained.
Preval says his department had already been evaluating WinFrame for remote access by electoral offices.
“We were so impressed with its performance as a remote node server that we decided to keep it on. Then at the beginning of the year we were planning to upgrade our desktops to Windows 95, Office97, Outlook and Exchange. We had quite a large number of 386s running Windows 3.11 but they were never going to be capable of running Windows 95 and it looked like we were going to have to replace them. We looked at the sums and the way the industry is going, with things like total cost of ownership and thin clients, and decided that WinFrame offered -advantages in those areas and was also capable of running the applications we wanted.”
However, fate intervened in May when Microsoft dropped development plans for a WinFrame competitor and instead signed a $US75 million licensing and development deal with Citrix.
“When we started looking at the beginning of the year, Citrix was in beta with version 2 of WinFrame, which would have run on NT 4.0, giving users a Windows 95/NT 4.0-type GUI. That fitted very nicely with where we were going with our desktop. It was an ideal opportunity to introduce thin-client technology, improve performance and avoid replacing all our hardware. In the months before Citrix Winframe released version 2.0 Microsoft became involved and effectively version 2.0 was canned. Now Microsoft will bring out its own version of multiuser Windows NT [code named Hydra] and we’ll look at that.”
To maximise performance, parliamentary service installed a dedicated Win-Frame server, a Dell 6100 with four Pentium Pro 200MHz CPUs and half a gigabyte of memory.
“WinFrame runs in memory, so you need about 10Mb of memory per user. You need processing power as well. It’s a matter of about 10 to 15 users per Pentium Pro for average users.”
Says Preval: “I see WinFrame as being one of the technologies for reducing total cost of ownership and easing management but we’re always monitoring others.
“At the end of the day, the technology that is used on the desktop should be invisible to the user — that’s the main issue.”
Computerland Wellington is the project integrator.