Feeds

'Mainframe blowout' knackered millions of RBS, NatWest accounts

Bankers blame hardware fault, sources point to IBM big iron

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

A hardware fault in one of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group's mainframes prevented millions of customers from accessing their accounts last night.

A spokesman said an unspecified system failure was to blame after folks were unable to log into online banking, use cash machines or make payments at the tills for three hours on Wednesday evening. The fault affected customers of RBS, NatWest and Ulster Bank.

The taxpayer-owned financial giant stressed this was not repeat of the catastrophic three-day outage that kicked off less than a year ago, during which RBS banks couldn't process payments to millions of accounts. The cock-up left infuriated customers short of cash and unable to settle bills, shop for food or keep up with mortgage repayments.

Speaking of yesterday's titsup service, an RBS Group spokesman told The Reg: "This problem was caused by a hardware fault and was not related to the issues we experienced last summer.”

El Reg traced the cause of last year’s downtime to human error: an inexperienced IT operative hit the wrong button during what should have been a routine overnight CA-7 batch job to process inbound payments. The cock-up caused a huge backlog that took days, and in some cases weeks, to clear.

Our sources close to the banking group's IT systems told us today that last night's outage was likely a failure on the IBM mainframe that handles customer accounts. This fault may have been something as simple as a corrupted hard drive, broken disk controller or interconnecting hardware.

But such a minor issue shouldn't have taken down core activities. In theory, the banking group’s disaster-recovery procedures should have kicked in straight away without a glitch in critical services.

Yet, between 9pm and 11pm, customers were unable to access accounts online, by phone or through cash machines and smartphones.

One source told The Reg: “This one looks like a standard outage, rather than anything more complicated. It's just so unusual for these to happen with mainframes.”

RBS Group runs its core banking operations, including all customer accounts, on IBM zSeries machines, among the most reliable hardware in the industry.

Another source told The Reg that human error is “most likely” for the actual delay in initiating the recovery; the bank’s IT procedures will in some way require system administrators to understand a problem before they start flipping switches.

If you're in the know and would like to add to the coverage of this latest outage at RBS Group, drop The Reg a note or call the London office on 020 3189 4620. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.