Home Affairs to keep its IBM mainframe for another four years

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Home Affairs to keep its IBM mainframe for another four years

Extends deal for $235 million.

The Department of Home Affairs will maintain its IBM mainframe for at least another four years, as it continues to investigate how best to modernise the legacy infrastructure environment.

The super-department extended its mainframe deal with the IT giant until July 2025 last month at a cost of $234.9 million, bringing the total value of the contract to $924.2 million over 18 years.

Home Affairs uses its mainframe to host a number of the country’s mission-critical traveller, cargo and trade systems, which require high levels of reliability and availability.

The contract – which was first signed for $203.2 million in June 2007 and remains Home Affairs’ largest with IBM – last grew by $130 million when it was previously extended in June 2018.

A spokesperson told iTnews that IBM would continue to provide the same service when the amended contract begins in July 2021.

The four-year extensions come a year after Home Affairs revealed plans for a ‘mainframe workload modernisation and optimisation’ project to investigate its future infrastructure options.

The project aims to address areas of growing risk, especially around staffing in its mainframe workforce – a “significant proportion” of which are approaching retirement.

The department said it was “finding it difficult to replace departing staff, making it increasingly difficult to fully support… critical applications”, exposing it to at least “some operational risks”.

“This has the potential to leave the department in a position where there is insufficient staff to effectively operate the current mainframe-based environments,” it said last year.

Home Affairs also plans to use the project to further its adoption of contemporary development methodologies, building on existing efforts to re-architect parts of its core systems using AWS.

Asked whether it had made any decisions about the future of its mainframe environment, the department said it is still in the process of developing a mainframe modernisation strategy using information received through a request for information (RFI).

“The purpose of the RFI was for information gathering purposes to inform a mainframe modernisation strategy,” the spokesperson said.

“The information supplied by industry is assisting the department in the formulation of this and other technology related strategies.”

The spokesperson added that the department’s “complex and large” environment meant that “any move away from mainframe platforms will take many years”,

“Planning activities will commence in due course based upon agreed strategies,” the spokesperson said, adding that the arrangements would align with the government's hosting strategy.

Home Affairs last month struck a new five-year data centre hosting deal with Canberra Data Centres to support its migration out of Global Switch’s Sydney-based data centre by July 2022.

It is one of several agencies, including the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, currently migrating unclassified and protected-level data from the now Chinese-owned facility.

As revealed by iTnews, only the Department of Defence intends to stay with Global Switch beyond July 2022 after renewing its long-standing agreement late last year,

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