Girona City Council upgrades ICT infrastructure as the foundation for a smarter future
Girona City Council is the political authority responsible for administering and governing public services for the population of Girona, a municipality with a population of 103.000 inhabitants located in northern Catalonia. Like many public sector organisations, Girona City Council has a mission to deliver high-quality social infrastructure and is constantly seeking new ways to utilize its limited IT human resources to yield the greatest economic and social benefits.
Connectivity infrastructure plays an increasingly important role in the provision of new digital services by Girona City Council. This evolution is playing out against the backdrop of the emergence of smart cities, whereby urban areas like Girona are continuously seeking new ways to harness the power of IT, data, and sensor technology to optimise the way they operate.
Back in 2020, the IT team within Girona City Council was facing challenges within its existing access solution, which it felt would be unable to provide the level of bandwidth and flexibility needed to accommodate future demand, given the growing prominence of smart city projects. A complete re-design of the network was needed to modernize the data center architecture, improve the speed of all links and create a common, unified system for all smart city devices that would facilitate ease of management, scalability, more robust security, and greater reliability.
Launched in 2021, NextGenerationEU is the EU’s €800 billion temporary recovery instrument to support the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, with a major focus on building a greener, more digital and more resilient future. Girona City Council enrolled in the program in early 2022, recognizing the enormous potential returns from upgrading its ICT infrastructure.
After conducting some analysis of its existing set-up, it identified a number of key challenges it would need to address. It wanted to implement flexible, cutting-edge and sustainable connectivity technologies that would streamline the provision of city council services. Moreover, it required a seamless transition to the new set-up, with minimal to no disruption during the migration and deployment period. The use of more sophisticated ICT infrastructure promised major rewards from an operation, security and management perspective, freeing up resources for more value-adding tasks, while enabling greater device connectivity, with the added benefits of greater bandwidth and lower latency.
Girona City Council undertook an exhaustive process to explore its full range of requirements and the potential technologies solutions offer, along with their respective benefits. Informed by deep analysis and insights from a whole host of events, workshops and manufacturer demos, the team developed a clear technical specification and initiated a tender process to arrive at the most competitive proposal from a cost and functionality standpoint.
It required a new internal and external infrastructure that could deliver high performance, security, scalability, flexibility and ease of use in line with its digitalization aspirations and increased use of smart city services. Software-based solutions were seen as an important enabler of high-quality network management and service provision, while the use of troubleshooting tools would provide a comprehensive picture of network health, allowing the team to proactively identify and address potential threats in order to mitigate any potential impact on services.
After weighing up the options, Girona City Council opted for a package comprising solutions from Huawei. The centrepiece of this package was Huawei’s Intelligent Cloud Network solution, which provided the customer with Campus and WAN connectivity infrastructure that could be centrally automated. This also featured SDN technology for end-to-end virtualization for enhanced flexibility, while the functionality of iMaster NCE-CampusInsight provided real-time transparency on all services and programs across the network.
A number of factors convinced Girona City Council that Huawei was the right partner for a project of this magnitude. While the strength of the technical solution was hugely impressive, it also saw in Huawei a partner that went to the greatest possible lengths to understand its needs in order to deliver a fully integrated and flexible solution that represented great value for money. The strength of the relationships with the Huawei team and Madcoms Networks, a cyber security and IT specialist involved in the project, also played a decisive role, and Huawei’s local presence and potential availability to answer questions throughout the implementation process was also hugely attractive.
Following a successful deployment, made possible by the strong collaboration between all parties, the new data center network has already delivered massive benefits in the form of enhanced resilience, scalability and overall 25Gb/s connectivity, compared to the maximum previous speed of 10Gb/s. The first consequences have been the reduction of more than 1ms in the latency of the hyper-converged infrastructure, also improving its CPU metrics, or in the drastically reduced timescales for mission-critical backups from 20 days to approximately 10 days. A new spine-leaf network model provides the level of flexibility and scalability required to support the evolution of the network, immediately overcoming the limitations of the previous setup.
The network is now entirely centralized, allowing the IT team complete control of the network, irrespective of the connection type or location. Such factors have yielded considerable productivity benefits, while simultaneously enhancing the security of the IT environment, protecting it from unauthorized access and potential attacks. This has freed up valuable resources, so that the team can focus on end users and provide a more effective service for all.
Improvements in IT infrastructure have also allowed Girona City Council to deliver on its promise to local residents. Productivity gains have now significantly improved response times to customer queries, while giving the council freedom to deploy smart city projects that will improve the quality of life of the people it serves. The council is working with the local law enforcement agency on a pilot project to gain autonomy by managing their network needs, and will expand this capability to other public entities in due course, bringing it one step closer to making the municipality of Girona a shining example of a truly modern and smart city that provides high-quality services for citizens.
Marc Garcia Lloveras, Cybersecurity manager (CISO) at Girona City Council, explained: “It is impossible to overstate the transformational impact of this project. We recognized a need to overhaul and modernize our network and were incredibly fortunate to benefit from funding as part of the NextGenerationEU recovery, transformation and resilience plan. From the very outset of the project, it was clear that both Madcoms Networks and Huawei’s Barcelona team understood our needs and had a clear plan to fulfil our objectives. The project has been a success on every possible level, giving us the technical capability to enter a new smart era and the flexibility and scalability to grow in line with evolving network needs. With a safer, more efficient, and faster service, we are now equipped to thrive and realize Girona City Council’s vision to become a true provider of smart city services.”