A Proactive and Holistic Approach to the Y2K Problem
By Eugene L. Cunningham II
How Did This All Happen?
In 1996, the IT staff at the Gartner Group estimated the worldwide cost of correcting the so-called “Millenium Bug” to be between $300-600 billion. This prediction, however, was based solely on code corrections; they completely neglected to include hardware, operating systems, applications, and the growing realm of infrastructure. If the so-called “experts” were having trouble with this problem early on, is it not surprising that many articles now tout the large number of Y2K projects which are behind schedule?
The problem itself was created years ago (and not so much ‘created’ as ‘not prevented’) by shortsighted hardware and software programming. Twenty years ago memory prices were high, and software designers used every trick they could find to cut down the size of their programs and data. Designers abbreviated where they were able (or were forced to in some cases by limitations in the system architecture itself), shortening the four-digit year to two-digits. Of course, they had no idea that the systems they created in the ’70s and ’80s were going to still be used far into the ’90s, let alone into the next century. However, many of these systems are still in use today.
LANSystems is one company that recommends a proactive and holistic solution to the Y2K problems. While many integrators rely on reactive business practices, responding to the needs their clients identify to them, forward-looking organizations such as LANSystems, seek to actively anticipate clients’ needs before they occur. Furthermore, many integrators rely on the client’s knowledge of their enterprise when it should be remembered that integration firms are employed for their extensive knowledge, and that it is their job to understand the complex interactions of the client enterprise as a whole.
Fixing the Problem Proactively
While many integrators are shying away from Y2K engagements due to fear of litigation and dwindling time constraints, companies such as LANSystems are approaching former, current and future clients. Much of the software and hardware installed across enterprises is non-Y2K compliant. This is true of products installed within the past few months. Many vendors are just now addressing their products’ millennia shortcomings, and often one must read between the lines to find out exactly what the troubles are and what is actually necessary to address the product’s specific solution. Vendors are offering up patches, only to issue new patches a few months later. Consultants can assist companies in getting the right solutions without the need for their personnel to become Y2K experts.
Fixing the Problem Holistically
Although many integrators brag that they provide an “end-to-end” solution, few organizations actually deliver. At the best integration companies, engineers should run the gamut of knowledge encompassing infrastructure from router to switch to hub; hardware from server to workstation; operating systems from Windows to Novell to Unix; and applications from office suites to document management systems, from GroupWare to databases and data warehouses. A full-service systems integration firm will survey and study all aspects of your IT/IS environment to make sure that no one item becomes the proverbial weakest link. This process should be executed in the form of hardware and software surveys as well as infrastructure inventories so that consulting engineers can graphically map out the full extent of their clients’ systems in their entirety. This data enables the engineers to see the system as a whole, such that they can understand the interaction and interdependencies of the network and its many parts as each is assessed and either programmatically or modularly remediated to Y2K compliance.
“Good judgement comes from experience, and often experience comes from bad judgement,” according to Rita Mae Brown. If this is true then the computing industry should be able to glean quite a few decades’ worth of lessons from the shortsightedness and architectural dearth that lead to the Y2K problem. In the mean time, an enterprise needs to look for Y2K solutions that suggest complete diagnosis and treatment for the entire enterprise rather than a Band-Aid here and a pressure-splint there.
The best system integration firms will bring experience, expertise, and proven solutions to bear. Such solutions span from the infrastructure to operating systems, from the workstation to the server and the many applications that run therein, and all points between.
Eugene L. Cunningham II is with LANSystems Inc., an international systems integration firm that provides network and systems design, implementation, support, development, and consultation services. Headquartered in New York City, the company has branch and service locations in Los Angeles, Washington DC, Chicago and Oak Brook, IL, Dallas and San Francisco.