After Midnight: It’s Still the Same Old World as We Knew It

Months of media frenzy about a potential "Y2K meltdown" had the public panting in anticipation right up until New Year's Eve. Then, as the clock struck midnight across the globe, nothing noticeable happened. The global computer crisis of the century passed zero hour without any catastrophic mishaps.

A lot of hard work by a determined and focused IS community, however, helped to make the New Year's rollover--and hopefully the rest of the year--relatively uneventful. In fact, some analysts now claim we may have spent too much on Y2K. IDC (Framingham, Mass.) has labeled this overspending--estimated at $70 billion--as a "hype tax" brought on by fears driven by media stories and the threat of litigation. IDC estimates that U.S. companies spent a total of $122 billion on Year 2000 fixes, of which up to $41 billion was unnecessary.

On the AS/400 front, all seemed quiet during the date rollover as well. IBM Rochester reports no problems or Year 2000 glitches, either on-site or out in the field, according to IBM spokesperson Tim Dallman. "The Y2K transition was uneventful. There's not much to say about it," he states.

However, some new problems did surface in the AS/400 world. Lotus Domino Server and Notes, for example, were discovered to have a Y2K-related glitch whereby a Domino/Notes message may crash when it contains a copy of a document either dated before 1950 or after 2000. Lotus will be issuing a patch in an upcoming service pack, and has workarounds posted on its Web site. In addition, IBM reported a glitch in V3R2 of the operating system, which involves users of the RCLDLO command receiving a messaging error.

Likewise, many AS/400 customers saw New Year's pass with no major events. Jerry Ciesla, program manager with California Casualty Company (San Francisco), which runs AS/400s and other systems, passed up an opportunity to travel to New York's Times Square to remain on duty with his company. But nothing out of the ordinary occurred, he relays. "To a lot of us, it all seemed 'too easy' now. Of course, it wasn't easy, and nobody wanted to touch Y2K projects with a 10-foot pole over the last two years," he observes.

Remediation of California Casualty's AS/400 systems, which began in earnest about two years ago, went relatively smoothly, he relates. The company was able to upgrade its software packages from McCracken Financial Software (Billerica, Mass.) and Policy Management Systems Corp. (PMSC, Columbia, S.C.). "All we had to do was stay at level, and put in the new version." One policy issuance system had so many customized revisions, however, that the company had to rewrite the code itself.

Ciesla's experiences mirror that of much of the IT community--so many resources went into remediation and upgrades, and so much testing and even post-production testing was undertaken that nothing had been left to surprise. The major systems problems that occurred as midnight struck were overloaded phone circuits and Web sites, reports Lou Marcoccio of GartnerGroup. Still, Marcoccio has contended all along that only 10 percent of Y2K-related glitches would actually occur over the New Year's weekend, while another 55 percent will surface throughout the year 2000.

"The Year 2000 problem is not only about the boundary period and therefore must be monitored throughout the year," agrees Matt Hotle, Year 2000 strategies analyst with GartnerGroup. "Another factor is that organizations, as a result of their spending, are getting what they paid for: operational software and hardware." Hotle cautions, however, that, "Most problems will go unreported publicly. Most organizations are not required to publicly report Year 2000 problems that they find and fix internally."

Some critics contend that the relatively quiet rollover is evidence that the Y2K crisis is overblown, but some industry watchers say it was money well spent. "Some of the naysaying and anger we've seen lately may be as much a reaction against that and against all the oneness and success the world experienced during the rollover," says Leon Kappelman, associate director of the Center for Quality and Productivity at the University of North Texas (Denton, Texas). "Y2K was merely a symptom of the underlying quality and management problems in the IT world. So as we clean up the remaining Y2K mess--staying ever vigilant about Y2K and all other system risks--it's time to make sure we keep the benefits gained from Y2K, while learning from our losses and errors, as we move onward and upward and really figure out how to use these remarkable technologies we've created."

In other words, when it came to Y2K remediation, IT managers were damned if they did, and damned if they didn't. "We have long stated that the Year 2000 date change would be a no-win situation for organizations," says Gartner's Hotle. "If they spent huge sums correcting Year 2000 problems and major failures occurred, they would have spent too little. If they spent exorbitant amounts and experience few major problems, then the perception is that too much was spent. We prefer the latter."

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