ESN. Transition. Cloud computing.
These three phrases are probably foremost in the thinking of everybody who has an interest in the current changes occurring within the UK public sector communications arena. Indeed not only with IT professionals, but they are probably exercising the thinking of many senior and operational officers too.
What is ESN exactly? How do we transition? Can we utilise more shared infrastructure? How secure is the Cloud? How can I minimise service disruption during any transition? These are just some of the many questions that are often asked and to which there are multiple answers, dependent on your point of view.
As a former Control Room manager myself, I can understand the necessity of completely understanding what a Cloud Control Room (CR) can add to my business as well as the obvious concerns; please note I used the word ‘add’ as there is an opportunity for the move away from on premise (On Prem) solutions to ‘Cloud based’ to provide additional business benefits to not only the end user and operators, but to each organisation as well.
For example, current On Prem deployment of equipment brings with it a physical limitation to certain aspects namely: capacity and flexibility. By running applications such as Command & Control systems and ICCS systems etc. for your daily business operations on virtual machines (VM), these provide the scope for instantaneous increases (and reductions) of capacity upon demand. This is especially important not only for spate conditions and for Business As Usual (BAU) operations, but especially when facing spontaneous incidents; whether they be of a disaster type situation such as fatal rail collisions, industrial incidents (such as Buncefield Oil Depot) or Public Order situations such as the riots of 2011 across the UK and of course, criminal acts of terrorism which require a multi-agency response of a significant nature for some considerable period of time.
The VM within the hosted environment will easily absorb not only the increased volume of traffic being generated but can instantly provide additional ‘seats’ for additional application users to be connected. Not only will the capacity provide the additional numbers requiring access to the systems, but it will absorb the volume of voice and data traffic being passed without affecting the speed of response to the transactions being performed. Older systems with a limited capacity do not have these benefits of scalability and flexibility.
VM applications also provide users with the opportunity to make savings on Disaster Recovery (DR) sites too. By connecting to the VM using a suitable secure IP connection, whether that is a Direct Network Service Provider (DNSP) link or an alternative with the suitable encryption, users effectively have an on-demand DR option from wherever they choose. In some cases, this removes the requirement to provision a separate CR which is just on a ‘cold stand by’ with the associated costs of provisioning and maintaining one being greatly reduced.
The security of the Cloud has oft been cited as a reason NOT to move into that environment, but the security of hosted locations are often more secure than On Prem solutions, either the physical security of the building or the IT firewalls and access points within existing systems. Hosted environments are within very secure buildings with levels of encryption and routers and firewalls to pass through being often out of the reach financially should an organisation wish to implement such screening locally. Couple this with the DNSP encryption which will be applied, then organisations will be moving to a more secure infrastructure than those currently employed.
Finally, where organisations are either seeking or considering areas of greater collaboration with partners, whether within their own vertical of Police, Fire and Ambulance or with multi-agency collaborations, the use of Cloud CR provides an easier method of utilising shared hosted environments. Not only will this provide a reduction in costs through economy of scale, but also providing an easier road map for application collaborations and improved data sharing going forward.
Mark Swift is a Product Manager for Motorola Solutions
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