Analysis: Storm Preparation

Glenn Ericson

Expect turbulence as we leave today's century-shackled MIS environment. No major crashes are anticipated but cautions abound. Bumps in the road, detours, anxious blips on the radar, skewed horizons and missing and confusing things will float about sporadically. During these periods of little bumps, we can all expect episodes of information blackout and incorrect figures as the century turns and maybe even for some time after. How long? Who knows!

The good news is the AS/400 system date will track internally through 000000 as the clock turns into a new century. This transition is testable without appreciable extra effort. (The AS/400 started tracking the system internally in units of 1024 microseconds since August 23, 1928 12:03:06:315. New RISC systems have changed a bit, however the idea and rollover points remain the same.)

It's been a little over a month since we passed through the Global Positioning System (GPS) navigational roll over. What happened is that the on board navigational systems received satellites signals which contain a count of weeks (since Jan 5, 1980) that is incremented until the systems maximum of 1,024 and then through the magical zeroes.

The largest report of failure came from Japan's active autos. There were reports of individual boaters in California and Italy that were lost before they left their respective harbors. Go figure. There was also a report of a 70 percent loss in satellite television transmission also in California.

This was no secret event. Old units likely failed while new units--or those with manufacturers' fixes--ran problem free. That is, unless your manufacturer went out of business or was bought out and the new owner no longer offers support.

We do well at tracking hurricanes as they progress through a less-than-predictable path. Mother Nature seems to make a few changes, but all said and done we can generally forecast their track. Once the fierce storm reaches land and affects the public, details tend to get a little fuzzy and can spawn multiple descriptions and reactions to the same incident. Reports of damage and emergency management become more reactive and less precise. Forecasters of this natural disruption recommend we prepare in advance to protect our assets, valuables, and persons.

This is very much like the Year 2000, except in this case, we board up some windows, head away from danger and hope the storm never gets to us. The Year 2000 phenomenon is navigating a sure path to occurrence for everyone. It leaves open only a question of when additional problems may occur besides those on January 1,2000. On that day, is it 30 percent after and 20 percent before or 50 percent later? No one really knows. Much like the early days of storm forecasting, extreme caution and contingencies are the watchwords.

There seems to be a very high degree of self-confidence within the AS/400 community. Conversely though, strong concerns about the supply chain and infrastructures that surround this self-confidence still remain. What does this imply? Have we scrutinized our infrastructures? Are we contributing to our own concerns?

And AS/400 loyalists are not alone. Consider these contributing factors:

  • Economists offer confusing messages by forecasting a high percentage danger of recession, then reversing their flow toward, "It might be OK," but in a less than a convincing manner.
  • MIS specialists are among the leaders in Year 2000 precautions and stockpiling supplies--just in case. Why is this happening if all is going so well?
  • Assuming you've checked all the PCs in-house, do you trust their stability through the wide range of applications with different standards, pivotal dates and multiple vendor synchronizations?
  • Doubts, however weak or unfounded, still linger about system readiness in power and heating companies, banking/finance and essentials such as food and emergency services/hospitals.
  • Cautiously worded and sometimes wavering status reports from government, industry and company spokes people.
For a long time now you've been ready and diligent in your efforts--from awareness through remediation, testing, audits, clean management and contingency planning. Your AS/400 is Year 2000-ready—almost. In late October or early November look for the "Mother-of-all-Y2K-PTFs" of the Cumulative PTF and SF99200 or SF99201 variety.

In this business you're never really done. There's always another step or refinement. What you should do now is examine your current truths and accomplishments and bring yourself to new plateaus of confidence and pride.

As you settle your Y2K account, the time has come to address new areas in your future, whether they're e-business, data warehousing, business intelligence, Domino, or a new ERP Product. Move positively forward and get on with it now. Just don't begin live implementation before February 2000.