ABS ramps up storage systems for 2016 census

Director of server operating systems expects e-form uptake to increase significantly

Following a new storage rollout in July completed in time for this year's census, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is now prepared for an increased uptake of e-forms in 2016.

ABS director of server operating systems and storage, Brian Studman, said that 30 per cent of returns this year were eCensus forms with the other 70 per cent made up of paper returns and phone interviews.

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In 2006 only 9 per cent of Australians completed their Census form online. Studman said the ABS would prefer the majority of Australians to eventually complete e-forms, as paper forms need to be scanned into the database manually.

“More people [choosing] to complete e-forms in 2016 will be better as it’s more efficient for us but of course e-forms are not always possible in some remote communities,” Studman said.

The ABS implemented HP EVA 8400 storage offerings and C-Class Blades to process, manage and analyse the data of 22.5 million Australians collected during Census 2011.

At the peak of the census, more than 100 eCensus forms were being submitted every second, although the ABS also reported that many people completed all the questions on the online census forms but neglected to hit the all important send button.

ABS has worked with HP for over 10 years and Studman said the EVA 8400 implementation was implemented in the organisation's data processing centre in Melbourne as part of an annual IT upgrade.

“We’re using the HP environment for our internal management system which includes blades and storage on the EVA offering,” he said.

“The critical business benefit of the implementation was that it has allowed us to preserve our core efficiencies in storage management but still extend the capacity.”

Data security was also a major driver behind the upgrade. Studman said the ABS wants to maintain its position as a trusted provider of statistics.

“We treat [security] very seriously because the type of data we obtain from both individuals and businesses means that legislatively we have some privilege to be able to collect that information,” he said.

The ABS predominantly uses HP storage offerings and Brocade channel switches in its storage environment along with IBM tape libraries. “We’ve found that tape still offers us the throughput, performance and value for money at this point of time,” Studman said. “We have to plan if we want to replace the backup and recovery because it is a major task and significant capital investment.”

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

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