Network-Smart Y2K Tools Manage Errant Desktops

Vendors -- including Microsoft Corp. -- are beefing up their solutions with toolsets that can assess vulnerabilities across networks and provide updates on fixing shrink-wrapped applications packages.

The first generation of Year 2000 fixes for PC-centric environments were utilities that focused on hardware and application fixes, such as BIOS and Real Time Clocks. Now, vendors -- including Microsoft Corp. -- are beefing up their solutions with toolsets that can assess vulnerabilities across networks and provide updates on fixing shrink-wrapped applications packages. However, analysts believe that these tools still fall short when it comes to assisting with actual remediation efforts.

About 10 percent of all PC applications and data may have Year 2000 problems, estimates Simon Levin, research director with GartnerGroup (www.gartner.com). With a concerted effort involving user education, this percentage can shrink to 3 percent, he says. However, most companies are just beginning to look into the problem, resulting in a "flood of organizations looking for fast-track solutions on the desktop and quick, low-cost fixes to the problem." However, the market for desktop tools has only recently begun to emerge, says Levin. "No quick fixes exist."

That's probably not what the information technology professionals surveyed at Fall Comdex by WRQ Inc. (www.wrq.com) and Aberdeen Group (www.aberdeen.com) want to hear. Only 40 percent of this group expressed confidence that their mission critical desktop applications will perform in the Year 2000. Less than one out of three (28 percent) felt they could prevent infection or re-infection of Y2K problems by individual desktop users. "Users need to be rapidly educated on the risks associated with Year 2000 errors in shrink-wrap and user-developed software at the desktop," Gartner's Levin agrees.

New tools now on the market may help take the onus off individual users to track and manage the Y2K compliance of networked PCs from central consoles. Typically, these tools employ a "knowledge base" of information gleaned from vendors' Websites, which then matches this data against applications found to be present in the network. This helps in "assessing the risk in both infrastructure and applications," says Levin. While these assessment tools have matured, there is still a dearth of actual remediation tools, Levin points out. "At this time, the only desktop infrastructural remediation tools are hardware and software-based BIOS fix utilities."

Microsoft has come into the market with its own network inventory tool for checking Y2K compliance, included in the next release of Systems Management Server (SMS, version 2.0). Scheduled to ship early this year, SMS 2.0 will include a compliance database engine which scans users' hard drives to create an inventory of Microsoft products, compares this inventory to the Microsoft year 2000 compliance product guides, and provides URLs with software updates. Compliance data from other software vendors can also be included in the database. SMS will also include hardware inventory functions and compliance information. In addition, SMS will distribute software updates through the network and monitor software installation to avoid the introduction of noncompliant software.

Microsoft's Y2K Product Analyzer, which is the compliance engine of SMS 2.0, is also being offered on a standalone basis, free of charge, for use on individual PCs. In addition, a free quarterly CD, the Y2K Resource CD, includes product guides, white papers and year 2000 information. In the second quarter the CD will also include assessment tools and information on addressing compliance for all levels, including hardware, operating systems, applications, documents, custom code and data interfaces. Microsoft also announced three date migration add-in tools for Microsoft Excel 97 for Windows.

Attachmate Corp. (www.attachmate.com) recently announced that it is exporting some of its PC-to-host network management technology to help address PC compliance issues. Attachmate's Expert Assistant discovers, reports and resolves Y2K software compliance for Windows, Windows 95/98 and NT 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. 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.

Viasoft Inc. (www.viasoft.com) has announced a solution that helps look at the Y2K-readiness of the network itself, as well as new network-centric Y2K tools. A new version of OnMark 2000 features OnMark WebCenter, which delivers a Web-based central point of control for software analysis and distribution; OnMark 2000 Workbench for Lotus Notes, a Lotus Notes-based assessment tool that analyzes Notes databases, templates and applications for potential Year 2000 issues; and OnMark 2000 for Networks, which automates the discovery and inventorying of network devices, such as routers, hubs, and switches.

Another networked PC compliance tool, ClickNet Y2K from ClickNet Software (www.clicknet.com), also provides automating PC inventory, asset management and Year 2000 readiness reporting.

Symantec Corp. (www.symantec.com) is shipping Norton 2000 Corporate Edition, which includes data scanning as well as an application scan database and BIOS test and fix. Norton 2000 also includes Symantec's LiveUpdate and Norton System Center to enable corporations to update and distribute PC software. Recently, Symantec teamed up with Tivoli Systems Inc. (www.tivoli.com) to bundle Norton 2000 with Tivoli IT Director, a product for administering hundreds of workstations. Tivoli Manager for Norton 2000 enables IT managers to track Year 2000 compliance in far-flung networks.

Another network scanning tool is Centennial 2000 Pro Enterprise Edition, offered through Centennial Ltd. (www.centennial.co.uk). The tool enables network managers to centrally manage, test and monitor compliance activities for data files on networked PCs.

The product supports LANs, WANs, networked PCs, standalone PCs, and mobile computers. An administrative console provides a real-time view of all PCs and their applications on the network. The initial release supports Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, and will soon support database files from Access and other databases.

Tally Systems (www.tallysystems.com) recently began offering a version of the same product, called Centennial 2000-NetCensus Edition. Along with Centennial 2000's networked test, fix and monitor approach to BIOS Y2K repairs, the new NetCensus Edition adds PC data file scanning and integration with Tally Systems asset-management tool, NetCensus.

IST Development (www.istinfo.com) announced the IST Year 2000 Analysis Suite - Enterprise Edition for assessing desktop systems. The IST Analysis Suite analyzes Windows NT and Unix files across networks from a single console workstation.

Other tools coming on the market provide assessment at a number of levels -- from hardware to the operating system.

Greenwich Mean Time (www.gmt-2000.com) announced a richer feature set for its Check 2000 Client Server package, which includes utilities for faster network deployment and more thorough information. Client Server 3.1 targets five layers of the PC problem (hardware, operating system, software, data, and data exchange), as well as native Windows registry support that includes automated collection of user information.

Client/Server Technologies Inc. (www.f2k.com) announced the latest version of its Foundation/2000 product, which provides testing for the entire platform layer, including operating system, BIOS, and Real Time Clock. The solution runs on both Windows NT and Unix.

Other toolsets, originally targeted at the mainframe and Unix markets, are finding new roles in Windows NT environments.

Migratec (www.migratec.com) announced a series of services for C and C++ program compliance, delivered with its Migratec2000 tool. Migratec2000 Impact Assessment delivers a database of locations of "date-aware" symbols found in C and C++ source code. Once the project scope has been defined, the Migratec2000 Inventory Tool is used on the source code, providing a list of application statistics and a list of missing components. Migratec2000 Analyzer is used to identify the location of "date aware" symbols. Customers are provided an Access database of dates identified with their locations, along with a count of the number of dates and date infection rates. Migratec Inspection validates that applications are Year 2000 compliant for audit purposes.

Migratec Remediation service delivers repaired source code. Bridgeway Systems (www.bridgeway2k.com) recently released PC-based versions of its Bridgeway Y2K transformation toolset and Bridgeway Compliance Checker. Bridgeway's knowledge-based database capability parses source code, creating a knowledge database that can assure validation of Year 2000 dates across numerous networked Windows NT servers. Bridgeway2000 supports multiple remediation strategies, including field expansion, windowing and bridging, even in the same application and is extensible across a broad range of languages, including COBOL, Assembler, and C.

BindView Development Corp. (www.bindview.com) announced a new release of its BindView EMS/Netinventory tool for assessing hardware compliance for Windows NT systems, including BIOS and Real Time Clocks. Customized reports show how many systems were tested and whether they passed or failed Year 2000 compliance tests.

Another way around Year 2000 is to go around the PC altogether. The PC-TC card from Esprit Systems (www.espritsys.com) converts PCs into thin client terminals attached via Citrix MetaFrame. The PC-TC, provided with its own built-in operating system, does not rely on the PC to be Y2K compliant, rather depending on compatibility of the network server. Therefore, only the server need be compliant.

The About Time Group Inc. (www.pcfix2000.com) introduced Universal Network Loader, a software package designed to distributed ATG's PCfix2000 remediation utility from a central server to all client PCs, both networked and dial-in. The PCfix2000 utility corrects the date/time in the CMOS, BIOS chip and operating system.

Fidelity Technology Solutions (tracer2000.fidelity.com) announced the availability of a new version of Tracer 2000, which enhances its analysis of formulas, formats and values in Excel spreadsheets, and the ability to save and reload sets of scan patterns for a range of applications.

Y2K Management Tools on the Market

  • Attachmate Corp.
  • (www.attachmate.com) announced that it is exporting some of its PC-to-host network management technology to help address PC compliance issues. Attachmate's Expert Assistant discovers, reports and resolves Y2K software compliance for Windows, Windows 95/98 and NT systems.
  • Centennial Ltd.’s
  • (www.centennial.co.uk) Centennial 2000 Pro Enterprise Edition enables network managers to centrally manage, test and monitor compliance activities for data files on networked PCs.
  • ClickNet Software’s
  • (www.clicknet.com) ClickNet Y2K provides automating PC inventory, asset management and Year 2000 readiness reporting.
  • IST Development
  • (www.istinfo.com) announced the IST Year 2000 Analysis Suite, Enterprise Edition, for assessing desktop systems. The IST Analysis Suite analyzes Windows NT and Unix files across networks from a single console workstation.
  • Microsoft Corp.
  • will include a network inventory tool for checking Y2K compliance with the release of Systems Management Server 2.0.
  • Symantec Corp.
  • (www.symantec.com) is shipping Norton 2000 Corporate Edition, which includes data scanning as well as an application scan database and BIOS test and fix.
  • Tally Systems
  • (www.tallysystems.com) is offering a version of Centennial Ltd.’s product called Centennial 2000-NetCensus Edition (see Centennial above). The product adds PC data file scanning and integration with Tally Systems asset-management tool, NetCensus.
  • Viasoft Inc.
  • (www.viasoft.com) announced a solution that looks at the Y2K-readiness of a network, as well as network-centric Y2K tools.
  • WRQ Inc.'s
  • (www.wrq.com) Express 2000 Software Manager discovers Y2K problems in system BIOS and in applications.