The Australian Electoral Commission is heaping high praise on outsourcer CSC after a "fault-free" election tally on Saturday night.
Counting the votes of those of Australia's 12,056,625 electors who voted on the day passed without a glitch, with the AEC's mid-range Unix servers running at less than 50 per cent capacity throughout the night and network utilisation never higher than 20 per cent.
After a slow start to the Cluster 3 outsourcing contract, when CSC found it difficult to find staff knowledgeable about the agencies' legacy systems, AEC assistant commissioner for IT Tim Pickering said CSC had risen to the challenge.
"CSC earned their stripes as sourcing provider for the AEC. The whole of the election period has been a very positive reflection on CSC's ability to build up to a critical event and we have been very pleased with their performance."
The 1998 election was the first time a service provider played a key role in ensuring the federal election ran smoothly from an IT perspective.
CSC won the Cluster 3 outsourcing contract, valued at about $160 million over five years, in May 1998. It covers the AEC, the Department of Administrative Services, the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, the Australian Securities Commission, and the Australian Industrial Property Organisation.
One week before the election was announced, CSC completed a new TCP/IP network, connecting the AEC's regional head offices, divisional offices and headquarters in Canberra.
Results were processed by the AEC's character-based Election Management System (Elms) at the AEC's West Block offices and then transmitted to the tally room via one DDS and two ISDN lines that subcontractor Telstra installed.
Developed in-house in the late 1980s, Elms is based on an Ingres database running on Sequent Unix platform. CSC put backup Sequent platforms in place for election night.
Pickering said AEC's old network ran in parallel with the new network for redundancy purposes, but carried no load whatsoever.
"So CSC have designed a system that has got the capacity to more than handle our peak load."
He said this gave the AEC scope to consider moving to a GUI interface for future elections.