The Y2K Desktop Challenge: So Many PCs, So Little Time

Readying AS/400 systems for the millennium date change may be a daunting project, but at least everything is in one place. Many corporate managers may be clueless about the extent of PC network proliferation throughout their organizations, says William Ulrich, president of Tactical Strategy Group Inc. (Soquel, Calif.). "The poor CFO has given money out to 16 different divisions, broken into 25 business units, with PCs, networks and everything else under the sun, and nobody has a clue where all these things are on an aggregate level."

Tools now on the market may help track and manage the Y2K compliance of networked PCs. Typically, these tools employ a "knowledge base" of information gleaned from vendors' Web sites, which then matches this data against applications found to be present in the network.

Attachmate Corp. (Bellevue, Wash.) recently announced that it is exporting some of its PC-to-host network management technology to help address PC compliance issues. Expert Assistant is a desktop software solution that discovers, reports and resolves Y2K software compliance for Windows, Windows 95/98 and NT desktop systems.

Expert Assistant employs technology from Attachmate's e-Vantage, Extra! Personal Client, and NetWizard products, says David Palmer, product marketing manager with Attachmate. "We put a new interface in front of that technology that focuses on Y2K issues," he says. In addition, new reporting capabilities developed for Expert Assistant will be incorporated into the other Attachmate products, Palmer notes. Information from reports can be exported to any ODBC-compliant database, he adds.

Another networked PC compliance tool, ClickNet Y2K from ClickNet Software (San Jose, Calif.), provides automating PC inventory, asset management and Year 2000-readiness reporting. IBM Global Services recently selected ClickNet Y2K as a tool for Y2K assessment and remediation among its client base.

The latest version of ClickNet Y2K incorporates asset tracking and management capabilities from a sister product, ClickNet Professional. Companies initiating Year 2000 efforts can carry these efforts into ongoing asset management, says John Kiger, VP of PinPoint Software.

ClickNet automatically discovers and generates reports on the Year 2000-readiness of the BIOS and applications of network- attached PCs, and will support "thousands of nodes" if need be, says Kiger. The solution now includes a database of 9,000 commercial software titles, which can be refreshed via an automated Internet download. The Y2K knowledge base will be updated continuously through June 30, 2000.

ClickNet can be configured to operate on all types of networks -- from intranets to sneakernets, Kiger says. "We realize that many companies have PCs that are either not connected to a network, or connected in other ways." For example, IBM's networks are built on Lotus Notes, which is covered by software agents that can be automatically downloaded to each machine, Kiger explains. Remote e-mail sites are also covered, he adds.

In addition to a knowledge base of more than 7,500 applications and software vendors, Attachmate includes network management functionality in its solution, says Palmer. Expert Assistant enables administrators to deploy new versions of the problem software, or apply patches and updates as need be. Expert Assistant includes a method of finding and searching all basic scripts for date related functions so administrators can remediate or remove any problem macros.

In addition, Attachmate's technology enables systems administrators lock down workstations to prevent the addition of non-compliant software. "All your hard work won't be destroyed if users installed additional applications that might put their desktops at risk again." Metering and licensing capabilities can "zero out" the licensing of applications or classes of applications, Palmer explains. In addition, Attachmate's policy management controls will prevent unauthorized installations on client machines.