How Bord Gáis Energy improved its security


Kyndryl Ireland’s Chris Davis provides a case study for how automation can reduce the tech maintenance burden placed on IT teams.

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While there is a lot of consideration currently being given to what the future could hold with the evolution of AI and automation, one of the biggest ways in which automation can help organisations’ IT teams in through real-time surveillance for IT incidents and analysis of large volumes of data to identify performance bottlenecks.

In addition, AI operations – AIOps – can automatically resolve issues within IT environments without human intervention. This, in turn can have a huge impact in terms of reducing the technology maintenance burden on IT professionals.

One example of this is at Bord Gáis Energy. According to Kyndryl Ireland’s managing director Chris Davis, Bord Gáis Energy’s service and infrastructure team had been struggling with zero-day security mandates, meaning the team had to fix vulnerabilities straight away.

“Four years ago, there was breaking national news about ransomware infections and this meant a 30+ team from Bord Gáis Energy having to patch more than 400 servers over the weekend,” said Davis.

“Bord Gáis Energy therefore engaged Kyndryl to propose and implement a solution that would help staff do more while improving speed, quality and cost efficiency. As a result, Kyndryl used the Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform to progressively automate event and alert management and all security code controls. This led to a significant boost in stability across the Bord Gáis IT estate.”

As a result of this action, Davis said ‘priority one’ incidents were reduced from 31 in 2018 to zero by 2020 and ‘priority two’ incidents went down from 469 in 2018 to zero in 2020.

The road to automation

While the implementation sounds straightforward, careful thought must go into implementing any technological roadmap that aims to solve a problem.

For Bord Gáis Energy, Davis said the team at Kyndryl needed to understand the requirements from a business objectives perspective, not just a technological one. This included the organisation’s plans to reach net zero by 2045.

With this in mind, Kyndryl has migrated almost half of Bord Gáis Energy’s workload to Microsoft Azure and reduced the number of incident tickets. The next part of the plan is to manage the organisation’s entire Microsoft Azure and private cloud environment, along with providing backup-as-a-service, storage-as-a-service and compute-as-a-service.

“These new services will enable Bord Gáis Energy to significantly reduce its data centre space and CO2 emissions, while ensuring an IT infrastructure environment that optimises end customer experiences,” said Davis.

Along with the Ansible platform, Kyndryl also used AIOps tools along with its own Kyndryl Bridge platform to identify new opportunities for automation. This, Davis said, allows the team to review data from a huge database of known issues.

In addition to reducing priority one and two incidents down to zero, Davis said that the implementation has automatically diagnosed 72pc of all incidents and automatically resolved 40pc using Ansible playbooks. “End-to-end automated resolution now closes trouble tickets in seconds.”

Lessons for implementation

“Implementing a technology roadmap successfully requires co-creation with the client, in-depth planning and preparation, and you have to be alert to the risks of trying to hurriedly expedite any of the steps,” said Davis.

“We would always advocate taking the time to develop a detailed transition strategy which is both resilient and adaptable in the face of unforeseen circumstances.”

He also said it’s important not to underestimate the time required for each step in the process when implementing an automation strategy.

“Set realistic timeframes with phased approaches and milestones and leave sufficient time for testing, analysis and adjustments. This second part is crucial – there needs to be a period of adjustment and fine-tuning, and implementing lessons learned.”

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