There are two types of systems; those that have failed and those that will fail. And it seems that the country’s largest telco, Telstra, has been “blessed” with both sorts. Over the weekend, Telstra suffered yet another embarrassing outage. The company’s machine-to-machine network, that supports EFTPOS services, ATMs and prisoner monitoring devices went down.
There will be a great deal of navel gazing and consternation going on at Telstra HQ over the coming days. But the fact remains that Telstra has suffered a number of significant outages over the last couple of years and this points to a number of major issues.
All systems fail eventually. That can be as the result of human error, poor design or equipment failure and is exacerbated by a lack of redundancy in critical systems.
We're currently experiencing an issue with some enterprise customer machine to machine (M2M) data services, which is impacting services including EFTPOS devices and ATMs. We apologise for the inconvenience and hope to resolve the issue as soon as possible.
— Telstra Enterprise (@TelstraEnt) November 2, 2018
Telstra has laid blame for this outage on a piece of faulty equipment that has since been replaced.
An outage that renders EFTPOS machines, Cabcharge and ATMs useless is extremely inconvenient. That impacted pretty much anyone wanting to do some shopping or get their money out of a bank. And the impact of businesses was significant. But the country’s dependence on Telstra for public safety must now be questioned.
In May this year, Telstra suffered an outage that took the 000 emergency services network for several hours in May.
And we now know that the system that tracks prisoners in home detention and day release from South Australian prisons was also off the air. At the time of writing, one offender was still not tracked down.
There’s no doubt running a modern communications network is challenging. But there is one key measure that defines whether a network is meeting its customers’ needs; uptime. The fastest network in the world is useless if it’s not available.
Telstra is in the midst of a major structural change with the separation of the retail and infrastructure businesses, a technology change as it embraces emerging tech such as 5G and SDN, as well as supporting start-up hubs and innovation centres, and dealing with its place in the NBN world. This is a massive undertaking.
But a network that isn’t available or can’t be trusted to be available, much less one that is relied on for public safety, is critical national infrastructure. If the power system suffered the sorts of outages Telstra has there would be massive outcry.
Telstra is responsible for critical infrastructure. Their recent track record suggests it is struggling to deliver.