Avondale, Ariz. is a full-service municipality, complete with police and fire departments, public works, utilities, and even a city slogan: “Aspiring. Achieving. Accelerating.” But while any city can aspire, no matter what its capabilities, for Avondale to achieve and accelerate, it needed three things from its IT infrastructure: run multiple disparate networks on the same data center infrastructure; deliver fast and reliable services to first responders in the field; and safeguard citizens and government employees from insidious cyber threats. That’s why the City turned to VMware NSX.
With NSX, Avondale found it could provide a better level of service for a surprisingly low cost. As Stephanie Kanowitz notes in her article on the subject published in GCN last May, Chief Information Officer Rob Lloyd “sees the NSX-driven cost savings coming in three ways: flexibility in redesigns, fewer people needed to manage the implementation, and a reduction in ancillary costs because the city won’t have to procure additional load balancers or firewalls.”
Firewalls at the perimeter just weren’t proving fast or secure enough. Lloyd knew that if a firewall were breached, attackers could easily navigate internal systems. Still, implementing failsafe cybersecurity measures was essential. “Cybersecurity… is something that’s affecting everything from our businesses to our community members and citizens to our government,” Lloyd says.
Senior IT Systems Engineer Wesley Harris agrees. “IT security threats have evolved greatly over the years,” he says. “Nowadays you might get a free flash drive that’s got malware on it, but you wouldn’t expect that because it looks like it’s a legitimate letter from, say, the IRS. One of the things that NSX allows us to do is be able to block off unused, unnecessary, or potentially vulnerable servers to prevent malware from even contacting the servers to begin with.”
The security NSX affords Avondale extends far beyond its bureaucracy, to the City’s citizens themselves. “NSX allows us to secure our citizens’ information whenever they’re paying things,” Harris says, “ranging from their water bill to a court fine to just setting up a new service with the City.”
Although better security was the city’s primary concern, NSX addressed two other networking challenges as well. First, Avondale had to be able to deploy distinct and separate networks within the same data center environment, including networks for the police department, the fire department, and public works. NSX allowed the city to do just that, while isolating east-west and north-south connections.
Another of their early challenges, was the need for fast and reliable services from the field. The increasing number of users accessing information from mobile devices was taxing the performance of physical data center firewalls. By building security into the infrastructure itself and using the distributed firewalling capabilities of NSX, Avondale was able to optimize traffic more effectively, and deliver greater security, to give firefighters and police officers the speedy data flow they needed.
VMware NSX has enabled Avondale to “achieve” with the benefit of improved cybersecurity—and to “accelerate” with the speedy application performance its various departments need to serve the city. Over all it’s been, as Wesley Harris puts it, “an incredible partnership.”