Hewlett-Packard Enterprise has stated that outages at the Australian Taxation Office were caused by a problem with solid state drives provided by a separate vendor.

A spokesperson for HPE stated that the disruption began when an SSD failed. While HPE did not name the vendor who provided the drive in question, the spokesperson did say that a joint effort between HPE and the vendor revealed that the outages were triggered by a ‘rare issue’, caused by a new, unique set of circumstances.

The initial outages in mid-December 2016 were credited to a hardware upgrade from November 2015. The December outages were compounded by the fact that the hardware upgrade issue also affected the office’s primary backup systems. The ATO then had to implement alternative recovery procedures which delayed services further, resulting in several days during which ATO services were unavailable.

Another outage for the tax office systems began on February 2 and lasted for several days. This one began during the replacement of the faulty hardware responsible for the December incidents. The ATO noted that their technicians were working with HPE day and night to fix the issues still plaguing the system, and that many core services were back online by February 6.

The Australian government then announced that large-scale IT projects will be put under review by the Digital Transformation Agency.Over 100 current IT projects with a capital expenditure over $10 million AUD will be reviewed in the first half of 2017.

The Australian DTA received a boost in December with the establishment of a new investment management office, giving the agency increased staff and budget, as well as a directive to help the government achieve a 10% increase in the amount of IT work completed by smaller suppliers. The current DTA review will result in recommendations for remediation to correct troubled projects, and may include the replacement of large-scale vendors such as IBM and HPE.

Regarding the latest tax office outages, the HPE spokesperson was reluctant to specify future plans for avoiding similar incidents, stating, “it would not be appropriate to further speculate on the architectural changes that might be made or additional redundancy solutions that might be deployed to improve the inherent reliability of the ATO systems.”

A Price Waterhouse Coopers report on the outages is expected to be released in March 2017.

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