Natural Resources shares database across government

Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources says it is planning to expand the initial rollout of remote access to its digital land information system to other parts of the public service.

The Peterborough, Ont.-based ministry

first started delivering data-intensive mapping technology to staff members in more than 50 offices in December of 2003 using Citrix’s MetaFrame Presentation Server. The technology allows users to query the proprietary Natural Resources and Values Information System (NRVIS) centralizes data on roads, lakes, conservation reserves, boundaries, Crown-leased land.

Recent additions to the user base outside of Natural Resources include the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food. Over time Natural Resources will disseminate access more widely, said Ted Volpe, project manager at the Ministry.

“It depends on what we feel their needs are in terms of maintaining spatial data,” said Volpe, adding that Natural Resource works with other members of the Land and Resource Cluster in searching for IT solutions to common problems. “We’re looking beyond the cluster at other ministries where we think they might have similar kinds of maintenance requirements.”

Citrix’s MetaFrame allows users to access databases through a thin client interface on their desktop or laptop. Natural Resources had looked at Citrix several years ago, but Volpe said there were issues around properly serving up colours in the application when the Ministry was working in a Unix environment. Volpe said he and his team took another look at Citrix when the Ministry moved to an Intel-based system.

“We also weren’t aware of any way of plotting such large maps over the network, and that solution came up later,” he said. “I think it was a combination of a couple of things falling into place.”

Citrix area vice-president for Canada David Wright said organizations typically turn to MetaFrame for ease of management and lower costs.  Natural Resources, he said, will benefit from being able to provide remote support from a central location.

“They had a really big, chunky application, with no way to get it to users,” he said. “The product is more sophisticated now than when it was for dialing in on the weekend. Now it can scale into the tens of thousands.”

Volpe said organizations that are considering MetaFrame implementations should be particularly diligent in the test phase, adding that not everyone is necessarily ready to move to a thin client environment.

“People are often concerned that if your system is not locally based, you’re losing some control over it,” he said. “Nobody specifically has their own installation anymore. I think there’s a bit of trepidation, maybe.”

Other Candian Citrix customers in the public sector include Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (SRD), which has been using MetaFrame to give forest fighters access to more than 140 applications, including environmental information, maps and GIS data through ArcView.

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