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Australia—Department of Defense: Mission critical IT systems reduce disaster recovery times and lower costs

Empowering mission critical systems to support Australia's defense force.


Australia’s Department of Defence (Defense) is responsible for the protection of 23 million people and the nation’s interests. Defense encompasses the Australian Army, the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force, along with a Reservist force and Departmental organizations. With an annual budget of A$26 billion (US$26.9 billion), and 101,000 active personnel and reservists, the organization supports operations within Australia and worldwide.

Defense is currently putting Force 2030 in place, a comprehensive plan to build the defense force of the future and support mission critical systems. To achieve this goal, Defense is implementing the Strategic Reform Program which identifies savings and reinvests funds into the organization. A key part of the program is to reduce IT costs by A$1.9 billion (US$1.96 billion) over the next decade.


To meet these ambitious savings goals and deliver Force 2030, Defense needed to develop lower-cost and highly efficient IT arrangements. A fundamental step in this program was for Defense to migrate out of its Canberra data center. This ageing facility faced major power and space constraints and could not meet the needs of Force 2030. Previous incremental upgrades had not been sufficient to sustain the facility; and continuing this approach would lead to the gradual degradation of Defense’s IT capabilities.

To deal with these challenges, Defense decided to decommission the Canberra facility and establish a new Tier 3 Primary Data Centre in Sydney. This A$100 million (US$103.6 million) project would deliver enhanced scalability, flexibility and resilience to data center facilities (power, cooling and physical security). 

The Department would also migrate major applications such as the Military Integrated Logistic Information and System (MILIS), and core enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications such as payroll, human resources, finance and logistics to the Sydney facility.

The migration project consisted of Phase 1, the initial definition of the strategy and scope of the data center. Phase 2 involved the delivery of the data center including planning, migration execution, testing and operations handover.

To manage the complex and important Phase 2, the Department needed a strong partner with a proven low-risk delivery method and collaborative team who could meet crucial milestones during a tight 18-month timeframe. Accenture was chosen for this critical role as prime systems integrator.


To ensure a seamless migration of data and applications to the Sydney facility, the Department worked with a team of 100 Accenture subject matter experts, project managers and technical staff. The combined team developed a robust approach that harnessed Accenture’s technology expertise, delivery methodology and experience in similar large-scale private and public sector change programs.

The delivery approach centered on four elements:

  1. Clear migration strategy
    Defense and Accenture devised a detailed migration strategy for the project as a whole. This plan was then broken down into specific tasks across nine migration groups, which included project milestones. The approach ensured the Primary Data Centre was underpinned by the most appropriate designs and build processes.

  2. High-level communication and reporting
    To meet key migration milestones, Defense and Accenture established clear lines of communication and high-level reporting that involved all stakeholders and the Accenture team. This helped Defense secure support from key groups (Licensing, Data Centre Operations and Application Support Teams) and achieve business buy-in, testing support and approval to migrate vital functions.

  1. Infrastructure and application testing
    Prior to the actual migration, Accenture undertook performance testing and base lining to record system performance and behavior. After the migration was completed, testing was repeated in the Sydney facility to compare system performance with Canberra facility and identify any issues. For the biggest and most complex migration group, which involved the Mainframe, four dress rehearsals were executed successfully in preparation for the actual real migration.

  2. Risk management
    During each migration, Accenture supported Defense by ensuring disaster recovery capabilities were maintained and in some cases enhanced. In practice, this meant keeping critical operations accessible during the migration with no impact on day-to-day activities and mission critical applications.

    The team also used Defense’s existing change and incident management processes to quickly resolve any issues that arose. Accenture provided new operational documentation and training for the Primary Data Centre to enable the Department to rapidly take control of the new facility.


Accenture drew on its extensive experience in information and communications technology migrations to bring best practice defense solutions and technology, with a focus on effective collaboration, to successfully migrate the data center applications.

Over a period of 18 months, the Data Centre Migration project transitioned 1 petabyte of data – the equivalent of 1 million gigabytes. This included the migration of 153 applications across 412 environments on 3,263 servers and nine technology platforms.

The Department’s Infrastructure Architecture and Applications Hosting Branch Head, Daniel McCabe, said Accenture worked meticulously to help ensure the migration went smoothly and that the program has “already paid dividends for defense”.

The project delivered a range of benefits to the Department, including:

  • improved disaster recovery times: in the past, it would take Defense three days to recover its systems following total power and network loss. Under the new arrangements, it takes only 24 hours

  • lower facility and support costs

  • tape-less backup solution and best-practice management network for use by the data center operations team

  • enhanced delivery of information and communications services

  • future growth capacity for Defense applications within a tier-3 data center

  • reduced energy consumption.

Further, the success of the migration project has been recognized by the IT industry. The Department of Defence’s now retired Chief Information Officer Greg Farr was named 2012 Government CIO of the year by iTNews, for driving the Defense’s IT cost reduction work and the data center migration project.

Mr. Farr said the Accenture partnership helped lay the foundation for the success of the migration.

"[The data migration project] was a project 18 months in the making. It was well managed and it was a horribly complex project [to get] from where we were to where we are,” he said.

The Department’s Chief Technology Officer, Matt Yannopoulos, was thrilled with the data center migration and noted that it was a major milestone in the Strategic Reform Program.

“The success of what has been a significant and complex journey is a result of Accenture’s extensive engagement with many parts of the Chief Information Officer Group and the wider Defense organization, and their global experience in data centers,” said Mr Yannopoulos.

In working with Accenture to upgrade its mission critical systems, the Department has met key objectives of its reform program and is on the path to achieving high performance and building the defense force of the future.