Critical systems move from ageing data centre to new facility, with no disruption to UK citizens

“ The fact that over a weekend we successfully moved huge amounts of data and 17 IT systems with 300 interfaces is a fantastic achievement. ”Mark Hall, IT Director, HMRC

The Situation

Some HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) data centres were built over 20 years ago, and even services like Tax Credits and the Child Trust Fund which make payments of over 20 billion a year, were on old technology infrastructure. Protecting data and making sure running costs are kept low is a high priority and therefore HMRC needed to move their systems into more resilient state-of-the-art facilities. The Tax Credits data centre links to over 75% of HMRC systems, including National Insurance and Pay-As-You-Earn, making the planned move one of the most complex ever in the UK. This needed to be done without risk to payments for over six million families.

The Solution

HMRC set up a phased programme to replace ageing facilities, starting with tax credits services, which were particularly constrained by their infrastructure and current operational environment.

The tax credits services were particularly constrained by the old data centre, so they were the first to move in HMRC’s phased transformation programme. Over 5,000 staff days were required to implement the change, starting with the architecture design and hardware installation, and culminating with the secure transfer of over 20 terabytes of data to the new system (this is the equivalent to an eighth of all internet traffic, as at June 2008). One of the most challenging aspects of the solution was reconfiguring hundreds of interfaces between HMRC services and the services with other government departments and external bodies like the Bank of England. Rehearsals were planned and practiced, processes tuned and operational procedures for secure data transfer helped reduce the implementation period from two weeks to two days.

The Result

Business critical tax credits services for over six million families now run on secure, resilient infrastructure; the move was invisible to the general public and there was no disruption to HMRC staff.

As a result:

  • The systems are available over 99.9% of the time, making sure tax specialists and operators have tax credits information on hand when they need it
  • HMRC has reduced its carbon footprint
  • “Lights out” facility automates manual operations, reducing risk of human error
  • HMRC has completed the first stage of their data centre transformation, providing a tried and tested blueprint for future migrations.