Case Study ekom21



As a municipal IT service provider, ekom21 supports public administrations in optimizing their processes through modern information technologies. With intelligent IT solutions and a matching IT infrastructure, ekom21 meets its customers’ requirements for modern administration. Against the background of advancing digitization, this can only be guaranteed for the service provider in the future through automation.

ekom21 is the largest municipal IT service provider in Hesse and one of the three largest BSI-certified companies of its kind in Germany. With its IT service offering, the public law institution makes the work processes of public administrations and companies secure and functional. As a pioneer in the areas of digitization and eGovernment, ekom21 ensures greater efficiency and progress with innovative technologies.

The IT operations division is the central point of contact for the creation and provision of complex local infrastructures, services, central services and highly available network connections. The ekom21 data center serves more than 29,000 end users and supports over 60 software solutions for municipal customers. More than 2,500 servers are in operation for this purpose, over 90 percent are virtualized. However, with increasing digitization, the demands on IT are growing. To meet these, automation is one of the most important building blocks.


Industry: Public administration

Foundation: 1970; 2008 consolidation to form todays’ ekom21 – KGRZ Hessen

Headquarters: Gießen

Size: approx. 630 employees

Customer since: 2018

Eingesetztes Produkt


Tim Mühlhausen is an IT security specialist and responsible for IT automation at ekom21. He explains: “As a data center, we have to provide our customers with more and more servers and services in ever shorter time. The development cycles of applications are also constantly reducing.”

“This is no longer possible manually in this number and at this speed. At the same time, our employees are additionally tied up by routine tasks that are time-consuming and therefore cost-intensive. Therefore, we were aware that we could only remedy these circumstances through automated processes.”


Progression and personal contact were crucial

After an extensive market review, ekom21 decided on the automation platform of the Potsdam-based software manufacturer Flowster Solutions. In addition to the expertise and a cost-efficient licensing model, the company’s customer proximity was also decisive for the choice. Tim Mühlhausen explains: “Our customers and we ourselves have high expectations of our IT services.”

“Solutions have to be constantly developed further in order to be able to map new requirements. Therefore, it was important for us to find a provider that also fulfills this in the area of IT automation. We also decided to work with them because we are very close to the development and support here. The manufacturer responds intensively to our requirements and implements them quickly.”  


Uncomplicated workflow design even without deep technical knowledge

The first step was a proof of concept in which various functionalities were tested.  Since the training period, the workflows have been implemented in-house and completely independently at ekom21. This was an onboarding process in which the IT service provider was initially trained by the vendor’s consulting team with specially adapted modules. Meanwhile, five employees regularly create workflows in Flowster Studio. To achieve this, ekom21 relied on internal know-how transfer. Mühlhausen passed on his knowledge in multiplier training courses.  

He explains: “I have developed certain standard workflows or templates that colleagues can simply use. All they have to do is enter their parameters and they can create workflows in the Designer on their own, without extensive background knowledge.  In the case of more complex questions, the automation specialist appreciates the direct and personal connection to the manufacturer in order to receive quick first-hand help. In personal support sessions, individual workflows are specifically addressed. “I always receive uncomplicated and prompt help,” says Mühlhausen.



“FLOWSTER is a very important element for server automation in the operational IT environment, which we will continue to expand in the future.”


Automated processes are in demand across departments

For example, the ekom21 customer service department sends e-mails to customers automatically via workflow.  The system runs fail-safe on two mirrored servers. A load balancer ensures efficient data processing. For this purpose, the large number of requests is distributed among the systems working in parallel. The workflows are executed directly in several domains, each via a separate execution agent. The advantage of this is that no additional firewall activation is required. Every eighth employee at ekom21 regularly accesses the automated services. Currently, more than 80 workflows are being used productively – and the trend is rising. The data center operator uses automation mainly in operational IT operations.

Tim Mühlhausen explains: “We use the platform as a self-service of our IT for our customers. In our case, customers mean the application administrators. In this way, we ensure that they can execute the processes themselves without having to approach IT directly.” But other departments have also recognized the benefits of automation and make intensive use of the platform’s portal.

The services include processes such as provisioning and updating applications, restarting environments or generating log files. “What is particularly helpful and relieving for the application administrators is that they can schedule these automated processes and no one has to be available for them at a specific time anymore.” Scheduling workflows are used at ekom21 primarily for the “emeld21” digital residents’ registration system. The IT service provider makes the software available to cities and municipalities throughout Hesse. This third-party application is integrated into the automation platform via an interface. Thanks to automated updates and restarts, the application is always available and always up to date.

In addition, ekom21 also uses the automation platform as an orchestration tool – primarily in interaction with Ansible. The open source tool is also controlled via a native interface from Flowster Studio and executes the workflows in the background.


Saves time and reduces workload with fewer errors

In summary, automation at ekom21 provides significant relief from routine tasks for both users and IT itself. The IT staff responsible no longer have to be contacted by phone or e-mail.

They can pursue more important activities. Scheduling, in particular, makes work much easier and is used a lot.


Customized self-service portal offers real added value

Another major advantage is the speed and the associated time savings. Compared to the manual approach, automated updates require significantly less time. This also indirectly reduces (personnel) costs.

An example of this from operational IT operations: new versions for the “civento” digitization platform can be carried out independently by the application administrators. “Especially when several environments are updated at different times, this offers an enormous time advantage, with significantly less potential for errors”, says Mühlhausen. There is also no waiting time for related tickets. Typing errors caused by manual entries are also a thing of the past with automation.

Tim Mühlhausen is also enthusiastic about the software’s portal: “Flowster as a frontend is a huge relief because it allows us to make our services available to a wide range of ekom employees. In this way, we were and are able to automate many processes in a very short time.”

The IT professional particularly likes the individual customization options: “Specific dependencies can be developed for the individual fields and a wide variety of data sources can be stored per field, which should be displayed by default. The options are very extensive and fully meet our expectations of such a front-end portal. We are very satisfied with this.” In this context, the service concept and the clear management of workflows are also highly accepted by ekom21.

The automation platform functions as a web shop through which application administrators can book various services. A customizable role and rights concept ensures that users only see the workflows for which they are authorized. This simplifies manual administration and significantly reduces the susceptibility to errors.


More applications and even more automation

Hesse’s central IT service provider will continue to rely on further automation with Flowster in the future. In particular, the deployment of virtual machines is to be automated even further. At the moment, this is still mainly done manually. To this end, ekom21 is currently conducting a proof of concept. As part of this, a form is being developed in which users enter the desired parameters and requirements (server name, CPU, RAM, etc.). At the push of a button, a new virtual server is created within a very short time.

An intermediate approval process ensures that this workflow can only be executed by authorized employees. The number of applications at ekom21 continues to increase. Many existing applications are also to be integrated into the platform in the near future and thus automated. The simple scaling of the software suite enables the IT service provider to continue to grow in the future and to optimally support public administrations in their work processes with its offering.

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