Of all the Citrix customers I’ve worked with lately, the City of Rogers, Arkansas, has to be one of the most innovative. They’re giving their public safety officers in police patrol cars, fire trucks, and ambulances mobile access to a key public safety application, running on XenDesktop and Wyse laptops. GPS antenna mounted on police patrol car units also feed coordinates back to XenDesktop, which are sent to their 911 call center and police dispatch.

I spoke recently with Alan Lantz, System Administrator at the City of Rogers, to find out more about how their Citrix implementation is helping the City to improve public safety. Check out my Q&A with Alan below, and then tell me, do you think it’s innovative?  Is your organization doing anything similar by providing wireless access to critical applications?

Q:  Alan, what challenges led you to implement a Citrix solution?

Alan: Public Safety – the police and fire departments – is the biggest segment of our city budget and our primary IT customer in the city government.  When the police department chose to implement a new public safety software three years ago, pushing the envelope was our only choice. The standard implementation guidelines for the software were to purchase $4k Panasonic Toughbooks and load the application locally on each one. We didn’t have the staffing levels for such a large deployment and knew it would require constant local device access, which is very difficult since patrol cars are in and out of the stations and usually are driven home at nights and weekends.

We had to choose to either go with the standard guidelines or see if XenDesktop could be utilized. We purchased all of the hardware necessary to support a VDI environment and haven’t looked back since. Not only are we using XenDesktop in patrol cars, fire trucks, and ambulances, but we also have a USB GPS antenna mounted on each unit. These feed GPS coordinates back to XenDesktop, which in turn, is sent back to our 911 call center. As a result, dispatch and all patrol cars have knowledge of where other cars are located. Dispatchers also have more information, such as the patrol cars’ direction and speed, as well as the ability to message the units as needed. This close collaboration means better information sharing, which I think contributes to catching the bad guys. We have always had radio communication, but we now have maps and speed/distance information at-a-glance that we didn’t have before.

 Q: What other benefits is the City experiencing?

Alan: Before the mobile public safety implementation, an officer would write a ticket or two then have to make a trip back to the police department to file the reports while the incidents were still fresh. By giving them wireless access to the public safety application via XenDeskop from their patrol cars, we’ve eliminated the wasted time of officers driving back to the police department to file reports. Officers can stay out in the field all day long and do the reporting from their cars. This equates to more hours on the road; which translates to faster response times to accidents/calls citywide.

Q: What’s your Citrix implementation like today?

Alan: We use a variety of Citrix products. XenDesktop 4 is used to deliver approximately 100 desktops to public safety officers on Wyse laptops. XenApp 5 is used to deliver approximately 100 published desktops to both internal and external users via Access Gateway. We use Provisioning Server to deploy XenDesktop and XenApp images, and we use EdgeSight for monitoring. XenServer is used exclusively as our hypervisor; we have 4 XenServers on Dell 2950′s and 8 XenServers on a BX900 Fujitsu Blade server. Next year in our budget we’re going to implement Branch Repeater for some of our congested locations.

Q: What’s your biggest “lesson learned”, or advice for other Citrix customers?

My biggest piece of advice is to always use well-known vendors and purchase hardware from the HCL (Hardware Compatibility List) . There are so many points of failure with today’s complex systems that the last thing you need is to spend your time troubleshooting something that could have been avoided up-front. I know that comes at a premium cost, but in our case we operating 24×7 and can’t afford downtime.