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January 2, 2020

National Grid Eyes Data Centre, Mainframes Shake-Up

Grid's got mainframes, wants modernisation; fewer data centres...

By CBR Staff Writer

The National Grid has teased a massive series of IT services contracts valued at up to $210 million (£159 million), this week tapping suppliers for proposals on mainframe modernisation, new co-location data centre provision and cloud migration.

Those are among the four infrastructure objectives that it believes will help the grid deliver “next-generation” capabilities in its data centre and network operations.

It was not immediately clear what the company is planning to do with its mainframes, e.g. pull applications off them and onto the cloud, or just modernise the hardware. (Computer Business Review has contacted the company for more detail).

See also: Swisscom Dumps Mainframes for Private Cloud – Cuts IT Costs 60%

National Grid is the system operator of the UK’s electricity and gas supply and the owners of the high-voltage transmission network in England and Wales, which consists of 4,481 miles of overhead lines and 4,760 miles of high-pressure pipelines. In 2018/19 the Group’s supply chain spend was £5.1 billion.

The company has previous with major IT contracts going awry: in late August 2018, ICT services firm Wipro paid National Grid US $75 million to settle a lawsuit over a bungled SAP implementation that cost it hundreds of millions to fix.

Wipro did not admit any wrongdoing.

According to Grid US’s complaint, supply chain, payroll, accounting and reporting systems defects were rife after the system switch. (Wipro had been brought in to help it migrate off Oracle and onto SAP). National Grid complained at the time: “The new SAP system miscalculated time, pay rates and reimbursements, so that employees were paid too little, too much or nothing at all… system defects devastated National Grid’s procurement, inventory and vendor payment processes”.

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It added: “Two months after go-live, National Grid’s backlog of unpaid supplier invoices exceeded 15,000, and its inventory record-keeping was in shambles.”

The company will no doubt be hoping for smoother sailing this time.

National Grid Contract

The final scope of its tender (published via a periodic indicative notice two days after Christmas) has not been finalised; but Grid expects the contract to be split into four lots: data center co-location, managed services, mainframes and data centre migration.

As the National Grid has significant responsibilities in the Eastern US it needs its data centres to be compliant with regulations in the US and the UK.

The data centre co-location should include security services and must be able to integrate with National Grid security operations, it adds.

“Operationally it’s key that National Grid achieve improved service delivery speed, scalability, and flexibility delivered though the optimization of data center footprint, automation of operations and the developing and implementing hybrid cloud architectures that meet National Grid’s current needs and can flex to meet our future needs” the utility said in a notice that hints at the need for ongoing savings.

With regards to managed services, Grid is seeking someone to manage data centre service such as backup, patches, licensing, asset management, capacity management, incident management and configuration management.

As they plan to establish new data centre locations the National Grid is also looking for a supplier to facilitate the host of migration needs associated with such a move.

IT System Issues at the National Grid Group

In its last annual report the National Grid highlighted a number of IT security issues it had identified through internal audits, including unmanaged privileged access by users.

The audit discovered a number of what the National Grid calls ‘deficiencies’ relating to the segregation of duties and control over privileged access and user access management within its IT systems. Essentially this resulted in a number of individuals having ‘inappropriate’ access to the group’s IT service organisations.

The National Grid noted that: “Whilst the Group has made significant progress in implementing and improving controls over the access deficiencies, particularly within the IT systems used within the UK operations, the remediation programme is not yet complete, resulting in a number of deficiencies still being present at year end.”

See Also: An Idiot’s Guide to Kubernetes

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