A Combined Authority: Unifying the Emergency Services


Enterprise Networks

In September 2015, the UK Government published the consultation document ‘Enabling closer working between the Emergency Services’ aimed at promoting better coordination and joint working of emergency services across the UK in ‘combined authorities’.

In practice, this generally means shared services, shared applications, shared sites and shared network services etc. The potential benefits of this approach have been discussed extensively, but the IT challenges are significant (check out our whitepaper ‘Shared Services in the Public Sector’ to discover more about these challenges in detail). Most (if not all) Emergency Services operate today as discrete entities. Each authority takes care of their own security and compliance requirements and each operates their own isolated networks and services. Historically therefore, issues such as security and compliance have been easy to define. The boundaries of the network have been specific to the individual organisation and therefore the scope of compliance and the network entry points which need security can be well understood and controlled.

A combined authority is a different prospect and creating a secure combined IT environment while avoiding technical pitfalls is no trivial task.

 This approach will support the requirement to:

  • Support shared as well as discrete services
  • Support potentially overlapping IP address space on the same network
  • Ensure security between disparate organisations who are all using a shared network fabric
  • Extend multi-tenancy across Data Centre services, WAN and LAN
  • Ensure network services such as granular Quality of Service are managed
  • Effectively monitor and manage the entire environment
  • Ensure resilient network design across all network elements
  • Provide scalable services and network capacity
  • Deploy security in such a fashion that minimises regulatory compliance issues

All of these aspects require a holistic design, encompassing everything from the Data Centre infrastructure and the services running on them, to Data Centre network security and virtualisation, WAN virtualisation and branch office segmentation.

Effectively, combined authorities need to become specialist ‘Service Providers’ adopting a new approach to service and network design.

Service Providers design, develop and manage secure multi tenancy environments for a living. Of course, not many have the skills or desire to extend that multi-tenancy service into a private Data Centre, or into a branch LAN in a holistic bespoke design. Not only that, but not many combined authorities have the desire to build a service provider network.

Thankfully, there are options. Specialist Service Providers such as ANS combine the experience and skills gained through implementing our own Data Centre, Enterprise Network, Cloud, Security and WAN to enable us to design, build and implement a complete end to end combined authority network, often using overlay technologies over existing networks and therefore minimising disruption and cost.

So if you’re looking to build a combined authority network, however daunting the task ahead is, we have the skills and expertise to help. If you're interested in finding out more about our network services, you can watch our 'Unrivalled Networks' video here.

Posted by Ian Wharton