Building a Smarter City by Improving Municipal Services on Croatia’s Northern Coast

HPE Storage

I am a strong advocate for smart cities. I believe IT can improve the lives of urban dwellers, making them safer and more convenient. People are already connected to their smart devices, using them to stream music and movies, order clothing and groceries, and communicate with loved ones. So why not expand those uses and engage even more with them digitally?

One way modern cities are working to increase engagement and convenience is by moving essential services online. Instead of asking citizens to visit a municipal office to pay a parking ticket, apply for a building permit, or request information about city programs, for example, it makes much more sense to meet them online. 

An Ancient Town with a Modern Approach to City Services

I’m the IT Administrator at the city of Umag, a coastal town in Northern Croatia. We’re a small, vibrant, ethnically diverse community that dates back to ancient times when Roman nobles discovered it. 

One way modern cities are working to increase engagement and convenience is by moving essential services online.

Today, Umag has about 15,700 inhabitants. Thanks to Umag’s natural beauty and location, it’s a popular tourist destination, and the development of tourism is directly related to the development of agriculture. The fertile soil is especially suitable for growing olives, tomatoes, and vines, traditional crops characteristic of the Mediterranean climate. Perhaps most famously, Umag is home to the annual ATP Croatia Open tennis tournament on clay courts. 

I’ve worked for Umag City Services since 2014 and am responsible for the IT infrastructure that powers the city’s administrative offices. Umag is reinventing itself for modern life, so we’ve increased the number of municipal services available through our website. While our primary goal is to allow citizens to access more services online, we are also speeding up and simplifying how municipal employees perform internal and customer-facing tasks, like generating reports.

Storage Was a Bottleneck

To move the needle, we had to look at our aging infrastructure. Our IT systems are centralized, and the most significant bottleneck was storage. This bottleneck created a lag in our service delivery.

If an employee at our finance department wanted to generate a report for a property owner, it would take at least half an hour to retrieve the needed information from our database. That process was multiplied by the number of requests we received every day. Everything slowed to a crawl, and little got done. When you added online services into the mix, the situation became unbearable.

Our previous storage solution was slow and poorly supported. We needed better performance and a responsive partner who could help us optimize our infrastructure and assist us with any issues we encountered. Security was also top of mind in an effort to comply with national and European standards.

Finding the Right Partners and the Perfect Solution

We work with several solutions providers and distributors. After talking to our partners at Integra Group, they suggested we adopt HPE Nimble Storage and HPE InfoSight. Ninety percent of our hardware was already from HPE apart from our obsolete Dell/EMC storage array, so it made sense to standardize our infrastructure with HPE as our vendor of choice. We appreciated the HPE Nimble Storage six-nines availability guarantee and were excited about the AI-driven predictive intelligence of HPE InfoSight. Together, we would have greater visibility into our infrastructure and a faster system that predicts and prevents issues.

We purchased everything from HPE distributor M SAN Grupa. I’m basically a one-person show and solely responsible for networking, Wi-Fi, and infrastructure for the municipality. I welcomed the opportunity to work with Integra Group on this project. Integra’s team was nothing short of amazing and took the storage upgrade project from concept to implementation in less than two months. Once they had architected a solution, they installed everything and upgraded our virtual machines in less than two days. 

There were no internal or external service disruptions, and the process was transparent to users. Everything was suddenly faster for municipal employees and citizens logging into our website. Nothing looked different to our end users, but I knew everything was better under the hood. 

The city has also contracted Integra to refresh our Wi-Fi campus with HPE Aruba technology. Throughout our partnerships, the Integra team has come to understand our needs deeply. They have a bird’s-eye view of our infrastructure and how our various systems are interconnected. That’s why the transition to HPE Nimble Storage was so smooth. 

This project is also a testament to everyone at HPE’s Croatian office. I have a great relationship with their team and nothing but praise for their outstanding customer service. Whenever I’ve encountered an issue that I couldn’t fix alone or with help from Integra Group, HPE has stepped up and resolved it within 24 hours. 

Accelerating End-User Tasks and Streamlining Storage Management

HPE Nimble Storage has greatly accelerated everyday end-user tasks like service requests and report generation by reducing complex tasks to minutes instead of hours. This speed has enabled city staffers to move faster when dealing with residents in person. It has also allowed us to increase the number of self-service options available to citizens online. We’ve added more web-based applications that take advantage of the seamless integration between our virtual machines, storage array, and cloud-based infrastructure. 

On my end, HPE InfoSight simplifies and streamlines the configuration and management of our storage system. I can view our HPE Nimble Storage infrastructure from a single pane of glass and monitor its health in real time. HPE Infosight also uses predictive analytics to alert me of storage issues before they lead to a system-wide failure. 

As a further benefit, I no longer have to comb through log files looking for bottlenecks because HPE InfoSight leverages AI to optimize storage, so we’re never short on capacity. It frees me to spend more time providing better tools and services to municipal employees and the citizens who count on them. 

Umag Is Ready for Future Innovations

I have barely scratched the surface of what HPE InfoSight can do. By the end of 2021, I hope to connect our HPE servers and HPE Aruba Wi-Fi to HPE InfoSight. I also expect to use HPE InfoSight’s built-in VMware vCenter integration to monitor and configure our virtual machines.

By consolidating IT infrastructure management, organizations are in a better position to take advantage of future innovations.

In doing so, I will consolidate our IT infrastructure management and bring everything under one umbrella. This consolidation will put the city in an even better position to take advantage of future innovations from HPE and other vendors. 

It truly is the best of both worlds. Thanks to HPE, I have the backing of an international technology giant and personalized service at the regional level. As Umag’s sole IT Administrator, I couldn’t ask for a better partner to help the city meet the challenges of the 21st century as we strive to improve the services and quality of life we offer our citizens.