Scottish government centralises and secures its network for better customer experience

27 August 2021

The Scottish government’s network serves several core departments, such as justice and education, along with nearly 40 public agencies in Scotland, as well as in Dublin, London and Brussels.

It was looking to implement processes that would simplify operations, management, and support, and allow it to work as efficiently as possible without network interruptions. To do so, it needed to transform its infrastructure; creating a centralised and secure Wi-Fi network for all departments and agencies, and, by better meeting the connectivity needs of its customers and their institutions, deliver an improved digital experience.

Creating this reliable and resilient network presented a few key challenges that had to be addressed and resolved.

Scotland has a unique situation compared to most of the UK, with some agencies and departments working in remote and sometimes extreme conditions. These environments require a robust network capable of withstanding harsh environments and ensuring consistent reliability.

In common with other Government bodies, it was also concerned about security risks, and resolving vulnerabilities across the network. With users operating across Europe, on land and sea, the Government wanted a way to ensure that all institutions accessing the network could guarantee their data would be secure.

Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALE) joined forces with Freedom Communications – a GCI Group Company, Computacenter and Sol Distribution, to develop and secure the government’s network infrastructure and meet the connectivity needs of its agencies and their users.

A combination of products and solutions was introduced to address the challenges it faced:
An Alcatel-Lucent OmniSwitch 6860 and 6900 Stackable LAN Switch, designed for the most demanding Wi-Fi networks, offer high-speed flexible uplinks, 200G stacking, industry leading 95W PoE, and high density 10G multi-gigabit ports ready for Wi-Fi 6, for high performance and extremely low latency.

OmniAcess Wireless Access Points were distributed across the government’s more remote institutions and agencies. Ensuring a high-performance WLAN network and Wi-Fi signal in both indoor and outside environments, these Access Points provided uninterrupted connectivity, allowing them to communicate securely via satellite connection to the Wide Area Network.

Furthermore, to address network vulnerabilities and security concerns, ALE introduced user network profiling, meaning that anything new plugged into the Scottish government’s network is now challenged. Depending on how the device presents itself, it is given an individual profile that determines the services the device can access and retrieve.

Mark Hagart, head of data centre and network services, ITECS, at the Scottish government, explained why they chose Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise’s solutions; “Our previous history with Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise gave us faith in its technology, and faith in our partnership, working with the account managers and the back-up support team that we have in place.”

The new technology has successfully enabled the Scottish government to function on a centralised and secure Wi-Fi network and desktop solution.

The installation of OmniSwitches and OmniAccess solutions have particularly transformed network accessibility in rural locations, minimising downtime, and enabling systems to survive power outages. In turn, this has made rural agencies much more reliable, improving the service they can deliver to their citizens.

Rural locations have not been the only areas to present challenges for the Scottish government. Scotland’s marine protection vessels occasionally experienced network unreliability, but the installation of OmniSwitches and wireless connection points allow the service to run via satellite connection and then back to base, meaning the network maintains robustness on both water and land.

Hagart commented on the outcomes of implementing these new technologies: “The robust nature of our network infrastructure has ensured we can confidently support over 40 public services agencies in Scotland. Organisations like Food Standard Scotland, Transport Scotland, Marine Scotland, and Forestry Scotland all use our desktop solution underpinned by Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise technology.”

The new centralised systems have also simplified operations, offering IT visibility which has improved project and issue management. In the face of a problem, engineers can now quickly respond with the help of a dedicated end-customer support program.

Crucially, the new solution offers all these technological benefits while guaranteeing security, simplicity, efficiency, and agility. The agile solution also means that the network can change and adapt to the needs of the Scottish Government in the future and is open for future integration and evolution.

Hagart concludes, “Across the board, it’s made sense for us to use the Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise solution. Our experience with the platform has delivered previously unattainable levels of uptime and, having been independently benchmarked and surveyed, user confidence in our network has risen to very satisfying levels.”