New Tool Flags Incoming Data

If a company offers products built with 1,000 parts, that means it is likely sending out 1,000 forms and surveys to suppliers on Year 2000 compliance. Of course, "everybody's going to tell you they're compliant," says Alok Sharma, senior product manager for Wavetek Wandel Goltermann (WWG, Research Triangle Park, N.C.). What is needed is a more automated method of double-checking incoming data, he says.

That's why WWG unveiled 2000.Net_Check, a tool that sits on a LAN segment, monitors network traffic, and flags potentially problematic data. The tool can identify non-conforming internal applications, as well as check incoming data from partners, customers and suppliers for date conformance, says Sharma.

"Invalid, non-compliant Year 2000 data can undermine even the most stellar remediation and testing effort," says Ian Hayes, president of Clarity Consulting (Hampton, Mass.), and a leading Year 2000 expert. "An organization may have remediated, tested and certified all of its mission-critical applications and embedded systems, yet remain vulnerable to incorrect or corrupt outside data."

WWG's 2000.Net_Check runs on a Windows 9x or Windows NT server, and can be calibrated to seek out key dates falling in 1999 and 2000. The tool supports up to 1GB of data, and can be positioned on specific LAN segments to examine data from key partners, Sharma says. "Or you can use it as a device to spot-check various segments throughout your corporation. It serves as another tool to verify that all your suppliers are compliant or not."

2000.Net_Check will recognize up to 900 data formats, and any combinations of numeric date formats or user-defined text patterns, Sharma says. This includes common formats such as ASCII, EBCDIC, and Binary Coded Decimal. 2000.Net_Check also operates on Ethernet, Fast Ethernet and Token Ring networks, and can focus its search down to non-conforming dates in protocols such as IP, SNA, AppleTalk and many others. For AS/400 Token Ring environments, a Token Ring card that supports promiscuous mode is required, says Sharma. EDI-originated data is also covered, since the data is primarily ASCII files, he notes.

2000.Net_Check is built upon WWG's Mentor, an expert network analysis technology tool. The 2000.Net_Check tool is scheduled to ship in May. Shortly thereafter, WWG plans to ship an upgrade for Mentor that includes date-checking functionality, and will enable real-time network monitoring. "It can prevent data from coming in," Sharma explains. Questionable dates coming into the network will either set off a pager or launch an application that will shut down the network router.

"Perhaps the most critical tools during the Year 2000 transition will be those that assist in monitoring incoming data," says Hayes. "It is useless to create contingency plans, action plans and acceptance criteria if an organization fails to monitor its incoming data for problems, and isolate the source of the problem."

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