Hardware 'dislodged' from HPE SAN during cable replacement

Australian Taxation Office reveals more about outages plus plans for Easter upgrade

The Australian Taxation Office will install a new Hewlett Packard Enterprise storage area network over Easter.

The Office's 3Par SAN went down in December 2016, taking with it several online services that Australian citizens and tax professionals use to settle their affairs with the government. Taxation Commissioner Chris Jordan today told the Tax Institute National Convention 2017 that outage experienced “was purely the result of faulty equipment.”

The nature of that fault remains unknown despite The Register's best efforts: the Tax Office rebuffed our freedom of information request on the matter on the grounds that it would divert resources from helping to prepare the report into the incident being compiled by PwC. That report is due for release in late March and Jordan today repeated his warning that the document will likely be redacted to remove commercially sensitive information.

But Jordan's speech did say the February outage happened when “as part of the work to stabilise the faulty SAN following the December incident, an element of critical hardware became dislodged when a faulty cable was being replaced.”

“This in turn caused the SAN to enter into shutdown mode,” Jordan added.

HPE customers have told us the company's sales teams are offering an explanation that the stricken array was moved while in production, resulting in damage to cabling and a disk drawer, which chimes with Jordan's new account. HPE has previously blamed a solid state disk for the outage. Disk-makers have not responded to The Register's inquiries on the matter.

The Register can't say with any certainty whose hand rocked the cable, but Jordan today made it plain that the SAN is “provided and maintained by Hewlett Packard Enterprises (HPE) on our behalf.”

And now some lucky HPE staff are about to lose their Easter break as a result. Australia has a four-day Easter break that abuts school holidays in most States and is therefore a popular time for late-summer beach getaways. But Jordan said that's when the Tax Office's planned outage for the SAN swap will take place, giving HPE a 96-hour window in which to get this right. They'll be working with a new, bigger, better SAN – presumably this year's model instead of the 2015-era kit that went kablooey.

Jordan's speech also outlined how the outages have gone straight to the top of the Tax Office's IT priorities, leaving other work languishing. The commissioner’s speech started out by telling the audience of tax professionals about the enhancements it hoped to add to its port, but then admitted he “... cannot give a confirmed delivery date until we have finished the re-plan of our IT work program.”

That's because “Right now we are focused on full remediation from the recent outages”, plus getting ready for Australia's third-quarter tax season and “implementing other mandatory policy and legislation changes.”

Oh to be a fly on the wall at meetings between Australia's tax man and HPE once this all settles down and the penalty clauses in their contract [assuming government was smart enough to put some in – Ed] come under active consideration. ®

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