Jump to content

Smart City Zurich: How Anthos is driving the city’s digital transformation

Recommended Posts

How can Municipal IT departments support cities’ digital transformation? Ask Reto Hirt, lead IT architect at Zurich’s information technology center OIZ. In this guest blog post, Hirt takes us behind the scenes of his department, which supports the city’s digital acceleration. He shares the unique IT challenges in the public sector, how Zurich’s IT is using Anthos to bring the benefits of cloud technology to the city’s on-premises applications, and how this enables a hybrid cloud approach.

Zurich is known for its lakeside views, alpine tranquility, and high quality of life. It’s also one of Europe’s financial centers, and regularly listed among the world’s smartest cities. Most importantly, Zurich is home to more than 440,000 residents who need functioning hospitals, public transport, and many other amenities in their day-to-day lives. Around 30,000 employees and 600 IT specialists work tirelessly to keep the city’s services running around the clock — and all of their departments are connected to the OIZ, Zurich's Digitalisation and Information Technology Center.

Because the OIZ is in charge of more than 2,100 applications, its services touch every resident’s life in some way. With the “Mein Konto” web platform, for example, Zurich’s citizens get centralized access to a range of online services with a single login. These services help them to pay their taxes, rent municipal flats, or find childcare, among many other things. We’re always looking for ways to modernize the user experience of these services, but we don’t have the resources to scale all of our applications manually. A regular business might just move everything to the cloud, but as a public service, data protection requires us to take a more careful approach. That’s what brought us to Anthos.

Laying the groundwork for Zurich’s hybrid and multi-cloud future

Why Anthos? Because it gives us the flexibility to host our workloads where it suits them best, and to apply the benefits of the cloud to our on-prem applications — without actually having to move them to the cloud. It also reduces the dependence on specific vendors: Anthos will simplify moving containerized applications freely between clouds without having to rewrite them, which is crucial for our medium-term plans to follow a multi cloud strategy.

With support from ti&m AG, a leading IT provider and cloud specialist from Switzerland, we leveraged Anthos to build our new Container Management Platform (CMP) that helps us to run and scale applications as needed in the Municipal on-prem data centers. The CMP consists of two parts: the Delivery Platform, which is purely run on-prem, and the Runtime Platform, which can be extended to the cloud in the future, if necessary. Combined, these Anthos-powered CMP solutions make it much easier for us to manage Zurich’s application landscape and integrate new apps in a self-service manner. That’s a real game changer, both for our internal teams and for our collaboration with external software providers.

Opening the city up for innovation

When it comes to external vendors, our new Delivery Platform solves a fundamental problem: how can we let software suppliers build applications for the City of Zurich without compromising on security? In the past, we were restricted to a specific set of technologies. If a vendor came with a software solution outside of this framework, we either had to refuse, or try to make it work with a custom solution. 

With Anthos, it’s much simpler: external software vendors can build their apps in their own environments with their own registries, and just transfer them to the Municipal CMP solution without having to rewrite them for the underlying infrastructure. One of the first applications that went live is a tenant portal for Zurich’s renters, built by an external software supplier. Differences in technology didn’t matter at all, because the vendor could just build the app in a container and move it over to the Municipal environment. 

It’s a win-win for us and our vendors: we can easily integrate a whole new set of apps and solutions that benefit Zurich and its inhabitants, and our vendors are impressed by how simple it is.

Empowering employees with self-service and API management

 Of course, Zurich’s internal employees can leverage the same self-service opportunities. Anthos gives employees access to app development and delivery tools that make it much easier to push new code to users quickly in a continuous integration and continuous delivery (CICD) environment. Because the platform is so easy to use, programmers with varying levels of experience can develop new applications with ease, and make them available city-wide. One of our employees decided to digitize paper-based financial revision processes as part of his Master’s thesis, and was able to quickly develop an application after some training. 

Our application landscape is steadily expanding, and APIs are the glue that holds our services together. We’ve been using APIs for more than 20 years, but we didn’t have a standardized way of accessing them. If an employee had questions about a specific service, they had to call the API’s owner and figure it out themselves. As our new API management tool, Apigee helps to create a consistent framework and enables employees to quickly see what APIs they can use and how.

Modernizing Zurich, one service at a time

Our new CMP is off to a good start: so far, we’ve integrated more than 50 applications, with hundreds more to come. We can build and introduce new applications faster, and better scale our existing apps. That’s a great achievement for the OIZ and the city’s IT team, but most importantly, it makes life easier for Zurich’s residents, who use our services on a daily basis. With fewer outages thanks to improved scaling, a constantly improving slew of online services, and IT departments that are more responsive to resident needs and feedback, we’re ready to transform Zurich for current and future generations.

Looking ahead, we might move more of our workflows to the cloud — but thanks to Anthos, there’s no need to hurry. Anthos was never an interim solution for us, but an accelerator: we can tap into the power of cloud technology to modernize our applications, without having to place our secured workloads there right away.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...