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ATO systems stutter amid hardware replacement

ATO systems stutter amid hardware replacement

The agency reveals further outages following December's "unprecedented" hardware failure

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has been hit by yet another systems outage, this time as it works to swap out hardware affected by the major storage failure late last year that took a host of its systems offline for days.

“The ATO is experiencing issues relating to the hardware faults that occurred in December. We are replacing the affected hardware, but this process will take some time,” the ATO said in a statement on 2 February.

“Unfortunately, these issues are impacting services including the Tax Agent, Business and BAS Portals, ATO online, the Australian Business Register (ABR), Standard Business Reporting (SBR), and Superannuation online services,” it said.

The announcement comes almost two months after the agency was hit on 12 December 2016 by an “unprecedented” failure of storage hardware that had been upgraded in November 2015 by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE).

It is understood that the affected hardware was two new HPE 3Par storage area network (SAN) units acquired by the ATO in 2015.

The agency has spent the better part of the past seven weeks working to restore its systems to full capacity, retrieve temporarily lost data, and replace the affected hardware.

This work has seen the ATO intermittently take its systems offline since the problems first hit, over two weekends in January, and during the Christmas holiday period.

Four days after trouble first struck, on December 16, Australia’s Commissioner of Taxation, Chris Jordan, referred to the issues as the “worst unplanned system outage in recent memory”.

“This was an extremely unusual and unfortunate event with the outage caused by a significant and unprecedented failure of storage hardware,” Jordan said at the time.

“The storage hardware was upgraded in November 2015 by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) after a lengthy and thorough selection process, and was seen to be ‘state-of- the-art’ at the time.

“We understand the use of this storage hardware is not unique to the ATO and is basically the same used by other large clients of HPE in Australia and across the globe,” he said.

HPE, which was called in to help the ATO address the hardware issues immediately following the initial outage, confirmed in late December that it had launched an internal investigation into the cause of the hardware failure.

Meanwhile, on 24 January, the ATO revealed it had appointed professional services industry company, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), to conduct an independent review of the incident.

“The review will help us to fully understand what happened and why, and what needs to be done to ensure we are not exposed to this type of incident in future. The PwC review is due to be finalised in March,” the ATO said in a statement at the time.

Now, as the agency faces yet another outage while it works to mitigate the fallout of the hardware failure, it has once again apologised to Australians and stressed that no data was permanently lost in the outage.

“No taxpayer information has been lost or compromised and all available resources are working to resolve this as a priority,” the ATO said. “We apologise for any inconvenience taxpayers have experienced.”

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Tags Hewlett-Packard EnterpriseATOgovernmentHewlett-PackardHPE

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