For Fast Fixes, Vendors Offer a 28-Year Solution

With the final countdown to Year 2000 underway, the most prudent Y2K fixes need to be fast and furious. That's why simply turning back the clock 28 years on dates going into applications may be appealing for many time-strapped companies.

Two companies -- Turn of the Century Solution LP (TOCS, Wayne, Pa.) and Precision Software Ltd. (Dublin, Ireland) -- have taken the lead with this approach for AS/400 sites. TOCS offers a patented encapsulation solution that sets dates used by targeted applications back 28, 56, or 84 years (all multiples of 28). TOCS plans to offer the technology through remediation services. In the AS/400 market, Unbeaten Path International Ltd. (UPI, Racine, Wis.), employs this method in its Resuscitator2000 product. Other tools employ the technology for MVS and VAX/VMS systems. Precision Software's Precision/2000 offers 28-year date shifting and encapsulation for AS/400 environments.

"There are only 28 calendars," Alan Amenta, CEO of TOCS, points out. "The day of the week and the calendar date align every 28 years. January 1, 2000 is a Saturday, and January 1, 1972 was a Saturday." Shifting dates back by 56 or 84 years gives companies an even longer time before they need to remediate, Amenta says. "If you can shift the data 84 years, the days of the week will line up, the leap years will line up, and you won't have to touch that system until 2083." The major limitation is that TOCS cannot effectively handle dates prior to 1929, which would still require field expansions.

UPI recently expanded its solution from fixing SSA BPCS-based systems to all AS/400 applications, says Dennis Peterson, VP of UPI. Resuscitator2000 has been employed to use 28-year dates in Mac-Pac, MAPICS, and home-grown applications. With TOCS encapsulation technology, projects can be turned around in about six weeks, he states.

Adding 28-year date shifts to program logic requires minimal source change, Amenta claims. This in turn potentially reduces test requirements, and removes the need for understanding the intricate and often delicate date logic that drives many systems. "It's generally quicker to implement than anything else," says Amenta. "On the AS/400, the biggest advantage of using program encapsulation is that the program logic never sees dates in two different centuries. It means that you can test with current dates -- not for two different centuries," says Amenta.

Amenta dismisses criticism that this method may require continued maintenance and attention after the year 2000 passes, or that it puts data at risk. "Encapsulation and windowing doesn't change the program," he says. "The program works exactly the way it looks before you started. The date logic is shielded. You can enhance the programs, make difficult maintenance changes, without any concern for Year 2000."