ATO CIO sees more cloud in agency’s future after outage

Events of 12 December outage “unique and unlikely to be repeated”

The Australian Taxation Officer’s chief information officer, Ramez Katf, says that the 12 December storage failure that took down some of the agency’s core systems is unlikely to happen again.

Key ATO systems were rendered unusable for several days. The agency is still dealing with fallout from the outage, having to take systems down due to ongoing maintenance work twice this year.

“The events of 12 December 2016 are unique and unlikely to be repeated,” Katf wrote in a letter to tax practitioners.

The root cause of the outage was the failure of an HP Enterprise storage system, with both the primary and backup systems affected.

“This was a contemporary piece of hardware that was considered state of the art when it was upgraded only a little over 12 months ago,” the CIO wrote in his letter.

“As you can appreciate we have escalated this to the most senior people from our partner organisation, Hewlett Packard Enterprises (HPE), to seek an appropriate response.

“We are working with HPE to understand the exact nature of the problem. They have assured us that this is a unique incident that has not been experienced in this type of hardware elsewhere in the world.”

The ATO is conducting an internal investigation of the outage and it announced yesterday that it has also commissioned PwC to conduct an independent review of the events.

“We are working on a number of initiatives to deliver more resilient and sustainable technology that will reduce and eliminate the number of disruptions you are experiencing,” Katf wrote.

“This includes identifying and rectifying possible areas of risk in our technology platform as well as migrating our systems to more contemporary cloud-based offerings for technology delivery.”

The CIO said the ATO is currently reviewing its forward work program to assess the impact of the outage on the rollout of new electronic services.

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