70,000 Midrange IBM Systems May Be Noncompliant

IBM estimates that as many as 70,000 midrange systems are not compliant. (Never forget: the IBM Corporation is itself not compliant yet.)

How will all of them be replaced in time to test them? How will the data contained in them be ported to the new IBM systems? A successful migration to a new system takes as long as five years, this article reports.

This appeared in MIDRANGE SYSTEMS (Jan. 19).

The prospects for the AS/400 base are murky. IBM estimates that the hardware and operating systems of up to 70,000 midrange systems in the United States may still be in jeopardy of not handling Year 2000 dates, according to Jennifer Clarke, AS/400 Year 2000 segment manager at IBM. . . .

70,000 Midrange IBM Systems May Be Noncompliant

The challenge is getting all these upgrades onto the AS/400s of the world in time. While a MIDRANGE Systems survey conducted last year found high levels of awareness and assessments underway, many industry observers believe there has not been enough movement to address Year 2000 on the AS/400. “A good part of the AS/400 community still thinks there’s a lot of time left,” says Skip Marchesani, director of AS/400 technical support at Custom Systems Corp. (Newton, N.J.), and a frequent speaker on Year 2000 topics. Many AS/400 site managers think the Year 2000 crisis “doesn’t apply to them,” Ransom agrees. . . .

Clarke relates, “We know of people still running System/34 code that don’t feel it’s a big deal, because the AS/400 Division has always taken care of them, and helped them schlep the code forward. But we don’t have the SEs out there anymore holding people’s hands.” . . .

As the clock ticks, costs mount. “All customers, regardless of platform, are trying to do the same thing,” IBM’s Ransom says. “The costs for resources and tools are going up exponentially, doubling every few months.” Add to this the likelihood of a storm of litigation, and the sum total is estimated to reach $2 trillion worldwide, according to Technology Management Reports (San Diego). About 25 percent of this estimate consists of the costs of litigation, the firm predicts. Large corporations will devote a significant portion of their IT budgets — up to a third of annual expenditures — to Year 2000 fixes. . . .

Even IBM itself is wrestling with this massive conversion challenge. IBM Chairman Lou Gerstner recently told shareholders IBM is spending “hundreds of millions of dollars” to bring its own systems into compliance with Year 2000 dates. IBM’s AS/400 Division brought its internal AS/400 systems into Year 2000 readiness about two years ago. . . .

Even with relatively seamless vendor upgrades, companies need to thoroughly test their applications, says Berryman of Janus. “We’ll have all of our vendor packages converted and upgraded by January of 1999,” she says. “We’re not taking vendors’ words on whether or not applications are compliant.” Janus is in the process of establishing and building an in-house Year 2000 testing environment, which includes its AS/400 and optical storage subsystem. Berryman estimates that testing will represent about 70 percent of its entire Year 2000 process.


The next option, migrating to completely new packages, can be a time-consuming process, and some experts are doubtful if this is even still an option. “A year or two ago, replacing a system may have been a major consideration,” Luntz points out. “As we approach 1999, replacement of a system is only going to be feasible in a few cases. Most companies with manufacturing and distribution and logistics systems can’t replace in time — it’s a two- to five-year exercise to replace a system.”

Switching to a major business package “affects all of a company’s business processes,” relates Lee Mulder, VP of marketing at Into 2000 (Jasper, Ga.). “The sticking point is having to change the way you do business to adapt to the software. It’s a painful, long adjustment.” . . .

Companies starting conversion efforts now are just making it under the wire, Marchesani says. “If they start now, and they’ve got an average-size shop, they might be able to get the job done using tools.” IBM’s Clarke agrees that there’s still time to undertake a migration from custom-written to packaged applications, especially on the AS/400. “Due to the AS/400’s integration, implementing an application package on the AS/400 is faster and less disruptive to your business than on any other platform.”

Union Pacific’s Success Story Is Not Cheery

The biggest problem is the interconnections problem. How can the trains move if each firm’s computers are not compliant internally and also externally? I have been asking this question for over a year. No one answers it in print because the answer is obvious.

The breakdown in Union Pacific’s service since the summer of 1997 is a fortetaste of things to come. This article discusses the problem’s root cause: the incompatibility of Southern Pacific’s computer system with Union Pacific’s. When Union Pacific absorbed Southern Pacific for $3.9 billion, it swallowed a poison pill.

Union Pacific must update 32,000 internal programs.

Like so many huge firms, the company found out about its problem late: in 1995.

Optimists say this problem can be fixed. I ask: Where is any company with 20 million lines of code that has fixed them? Where is one industry that is compliant?

This appeared in a series of articles on y2k sucesss stories published by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) (Jan. 3).

I say: if this is a success, head for the hills. And don’t buy a return ticket.

We are asked to believe in fairy tales: a universal international repair of a problem that not a single Fortune 500 company has solved.

As the largest railroad in North America, Union Pacific depends on dates to make the trains both literally and figuratively run on time. . . ..

Union Pacific's Success Story Is Not Cheery

What’s the Y2K connection? Southern Pacific outsourced its IS operations. Thus, while these information systems will not make the transition, the consolidated company must still assimilate vast quantities of Southern Pacific data. In some cases, the new data must be changed to fit in the Union Pacific framework; in other instances, Union Pacific programs must be adapted to incorporate new types of information. Melding the information resources of the two companies has required both people and planning, even as Y2K efforts must speed ahead down a parallel track. . . .

Keeping dates straight is just one of the formidable end user obstacles this program manager must address. The third of six targets on Brechbill’s screen, Union Pacific has a “customer computing” environment composed of 356,000 Focus programs, mostly used for decision support. Brechbill says that less than a third appear to be active. But even so this means roughly 98,000 homegrown programs, developed with no company standards whatsoever, tucked away in various libraries, some with what Brechbill termed mission critical functionality. . . .

Here Brechbill is using a “divide and conquer” strategy. His Year 2000 team will take responsibility for converting 32,000 of the end user programs; the balance, he said, will be left up to individual departments for correction. Whether or not this happens will be helped along by monthly Y2K conversion status reports. Brechbill says central IT support may eventually extend to staff and tools, but he frankly admits that his first priority is converting the 32,000 programs on his plate. . . .

Electronic data interchange is another functional area that has been pushed to the edge of the plate. Union Pacific has not tackled the issue yet, but Brechbill hopes to have a strategy in place by the end of the month. Embedded and vendor supplied software also constitute a category on the fringe of current activity. Like many organizations, Union Pacific is in the process of contacting software vendors to ascertain Y2K compliance information. Because much of what the company does takes place in “real time” mode, the Y2K conversion must also extend to the electro-mechanical, signal processing and communications devices used up and down the line. To make this complex assessment, Brechbill is not only polling vendors, but also Union Pacific Vice Presidents and operating departments.

Union Pacific launched its first Y2K pilot in 1995. Compared to what he has heard from others at a recent Y2K conference, Brechbill said he thinks his company is ahead of the game. The program manager hopes to stay ahead by cutting down the time it takes to test systems and put them back into production. He has a pilot in the works, details not available, that may make dramatic improvements in this critical area.

SABRE Reservation System Is Still Not Complian

MirrorThe SABRE system, which handles airline reservations, is not 2000-compliant. A January 30 press release announces the adoption of a new y2k remediation tool, GILES. This indicates that the repair is still incomplete, and not just incomplete: in its early phase. The press release says, “GILES is being used in the early and most critical phase of year2000 resolution, identifying software that needs to be fixed.”

The California White Paper says that awareness is the first 1% of any y2k repair; inventory is the next 1%; assessment is 5%. SABRE is not yet to the actual recoding phase.

Many companies have reservations about their computers’ ability to traverse the turn of the century without failing. But The SABRE Group has already begun its year 2000 remediation process using GILES 2001 to identify areas that could be impacted by the infamous computer anomaly. ohpone-image

After evaluating several approaches to identifying potential problems associated with two-digit year fields, which are expected to present serious challenges when the year changes from 1999 to 2000, The SABRE Group has added Giles 2001 to its tool portfolio to be used throughout its travel reservations business.

A product of Global Software, Inc., of Duxbury, Massachusetts, GILES is being used in the early and most critical phase of year2000 resolution, identifying software that needs to be fixed. . . .

“We selected GILES 2001 because we expect it to provide a solid contribution to The SABRE Group’s year2000 conversion effort,” said Greg Webb, the director of The SABRE Group’s y2k project. “The travel industry has a year less than many businesses to resolve its year2000 problem. Airplane tickets are usable for a year, meaning that the travel industry has less than a year to update and test their entire systems for year2000 compliance. Any ticket written after Dec. 31, 1998 will expire after the turn of the century. We’re working to ensure our airline and agency customers are prepared — especially since the industry has no choice but to be ready.” . . .

Many organizations with multiple languages are likely to run into trouble even if they tackle their primary languages with automated tools, explained Graham Thompson, Global’s director of sales and marketing. If they do not fully identify date fields within the source code of their non-mainstream languages, these dates could be passed through program calls or through files/databases into their primary languages and not be recognized as dates.

So year 2000 non-conformance will not necessarily be limited to the applications developed with these non-mainstream languages, he continued.

“The industry seems to have lost sight of the fact that only about half of source code is written in Cobol. If we believe the figure bandied around today, 90 billion lines of code throughout the world, the industry has been turning its back on over 40 billion lines of code,” said Thompson.

Replace 12,000+ Suppliers in 2016? No Problem!

BCE, the Canadian telecommunications firm, has 15,000 suppliers. It says it will fire any noncompliant supplier after mid-year, 1999. This is another way of saying that BCE will have to locate approximately 12,000 new suppliers in the second half of 1999. Maybe more. Maybe 15,000.

How? And how will GM do the same? And Ford. And every other large manufacturing firm?

Of course, the suppliers have suppliers. Their suppliers must be compliant. And so it goes.

Meanwhile, 90% of Canadian firms have yet to begin y2k repairs.


Rhetoric is one thing. Reality is something else. Reality is falling dominoes, all over the world.


Many Canadian companies risk extinction unless every business leader, from top chief executive officers to corner-store owners, drafts a battle plan to eradicate the millennium bug, a federal task force warns.

For those who ignore this countrywide call to arms, the consequences will be dire, Jean Monty, task force chairman and president of telecommunications giant BCE Inc., said yesterday

Time is running out fast . . . and for some it might already be too late,” Monty told a Toronto news conference after releasing the group’s final report, titled “A Call for Action.”

One faulty link can weaken the whole chain and break it.” . . .

The report shies away from calling for any laws or regulations requiring formal disclosure. Those kinds of measures won’t be needed, Monty said.

You can’t legislate because it’s too complicated,” Monty said, suggesting the market will force most businesses to shape up.

To prove his point, Monty said Montreal-based BCE will tear up contracts with any of its 15,000 suppliers if they haven’t routed out their millennium bugs. “By the middle of next year, we’ll be looking for other suppliers.” . . .

Still, a recent federal survey found more than half of Canadian businesses polled had no plans to deal with the millennium bug, although 90 per cent recognized the threat. . . .

In Ottawa, Industry Minister John Manley said there will be no government grants or tax credits to help businesses defray the costs of computer retro-fits, The Star’s William Walker reported.