Firm with ties to GartnerGroup downplays the "chip" problem : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

This could end up being a long post, but I trust you'll find it interesting.

Giga Information Group, a firm with connections to the GartnerGroup, has recently made an announcement downplaying the embedded systems problem. Certain phrases quoted in the article on this announcement, such as "embedded systems Armageddon", "the four horsemen galloping off in the distance", and "talk about the Great God Teotwawki" are used to call into question the level-headedness of those of us concerned about embedded systems.

What is the connection between Giga Information Group and the GartnerGroup? Here's a quote from the management profile page of Giga Information group...

"Prior to founding Giga in 1995, Gideon I. Gartner founded the $400 million GartnerGroup where he served as president, chairman, and chief executive officer until April, 1991 and remained chairman until April, 1992."

Of course, it was a special report from the GartnerGroup downplaying the seriousness of Y2K in the fall of 1998 that made many of us wonder just what was going on. In an article in November, I found out that the GartnerGroup report was released for public consumption, and not the GartnerGroup's usual business and government clients. Here's a link and quote on that...

"The GartnerGroup report is an unusual departure for the firm, which aims most of its work toward large businesses or industry groups. This report, a compilation of comments from 18 GartnerGroup analysts, is aimed at consumers.

"Cassell said the myths and fallacies circulating around the year 2000 problem led to the 15-page document.

"'We've been reading an awful lot of what we think are irresponsible statements that could lead people to do some unnatural acts,' Cassell said. 'People suggesting that everyone take money out of banks and convert it into gold or liquidate stocks.'"

Now we have an announcement from Giga Information Group that the embedded system problem is over-rated as well, which Web publisher Newsbytes calls a "study." The article's title is "Y2K Disaster Potential Overhyped - Study". Here's the link and four quotes from this...

"According [to] market watcher Giga Information Group, the year 2000 computer date problem will not cause an 'embedded systems Armageddon' as some have heard. 'It may rain, but the sky won't fall,' Giga said.

"The firm, in an announcement Friday, called for a 'common-sense approach' to the Y2K threat."

[skipping ahead...]

"Newsbytes notes small special-purchase processors have played a large role in some scenarios in which Y2K failures topple civilization. For example, in once [sic] sequence of falling dominoes, embedded track switching controls will cause railroads [to] fail to deliver coal to power generation plants. As a result, electric utilities -- which have Y2K problems of their own -- will shut down. As the power grid goes dead, telephones will stop working. Without communications the interlocked banks and international financial structures begin to fall and, ultimately, so does civilization.

"'Can you hear the four horseman galloping off in the distance?' remarked Alistair Stewart, a senior Year 2000 advisor with Giga's information technology (IT) practices service. 'It's easy to scare people with talk about the Great God Teotwawki.'"

[skipping ahead...]

"'Many industries, especially those that are heavily regulated have done significant work in preparing for the year 2000,' said Stewart in an announcement. 'They have prioritized what problems to handle first, and these definitely include essential systems that businesses, and their customers, depend on.'"

[skipping ahead...]

"'In the case of regulated industries -- medical devices, telecommunications, power generation, transportation, etc -- companies are accountable for delivering products and services that work.'"

Why does this article in Newbytes bother me so much? First, it implies that because they are regulated, public utilities are surely well on their way to having Y2K remediation done. True, the financial and banking system is the best prepared of all sectors of the economy to deal with Y2K. But, it is commonly known (you can verify this at Dr. Ed Yardeni's site) that public utilities are the LEAST prepared out of all of the sectors of the economy.

Plus, I had read an article just a few minutes earlier on how seriously the U.S. Coast Guard takes its embedded systems problem. You can see the article "Be Prepared for Y2K Surprises" about the Coast Guard at...

I had also recently seen this article on Chicago's embedded system problems...,1575,SAV-9901010066,00.html Bonnie Camp's analysis of why the latest NERC report may not be as much of a cause for hope as it seems...

and of course John Koskinen's quote from this article...

"'We are deeply concerned about the railroads,' Koskinen says. 'We have no indication that they are going to make it.'"

-- Kevin (, January 19, 1999


What great links. Thank you so much for this excellent article. This sounds like more spin to me. It reminds me of something a friend said once when I asked her if she worried about calories. "No," she said. "I don't believe in calories; I've never seen one."

-- gilda jessie (, January 19, 1999.

Alistair Stewart spins so fast he makes me dizzy.

-- Reporter (, January 19, 1999.

And yet:

"[Stewart] continued, 'Don't work to get into trouble. Don't go out somewhere far away from home on New Year's Eve and get stinking drunk; don't assume public transportation can get you home. If you think water supplies will become contaminated, why not buy a couple extras of bottled water a week during the last few months? If you don't trust the banks, what's the carrying cost of having a couple of grand in used 20s on hand in case you need it? Don't wait until the week before the end of the year. Take responsibility for yourself.'"

Hmmmm... Methinks Alistair is a bit more of a "doomer" than he realizes. He just stated that storing water and cash may be wise and that people need to take responsibility for themselves. Have "a couple of grand in used 20s on hand"? Someone needs to let him know that, if the majority of Americans were follow that advice, the banking system would be in very deep yogurt indeed. And storing water? The man must be one of those "survivalists"!

This is what's so fascinating to watch. Pundits are making statements like the above and they don't even realize that they're being "doomsayers" (as the term seems to be defined at present.) It's like seeing someone wander by an electrified fence and inadvertantly touch the top wire as they pass. FZZZZTT! Look of shock on their face as they realize the !@#$%^ thing's "hot".

Stewart's one of those crazies who'll touch off banks runs if his advice is followed! Ignore him! Ignore him! 8-}]

-- Mac (, January 19, 1999.

One irony: as I recall, buried in the Nov. Gartner report is the admission that up to 35% of complex embedded systems in industrial applications could be Y2K-vulnerable, a statement that is basically in line with research conducted for the British Office of Health & Safety last spring. Mark Frautschi, in an endnote to his excellent article on embedded systems, notes that up to 15% of complex embedded systems in utility equipment might be vulnerable; such systems typically have 10 or so individual chips per system, but may have as many as 50 or more chips. (One "bad" chip can gum up the system; also, all chips may be individually compliant in a system, but if they are not compliant in compatible ways, the system itself will still fail.) Gartner (and the press) trumpeted the fact that "free-standing" (!) chips, such as you find in electronic toys and small household appliances, probably will have a failure rate of only 1 in ten thousand or 1 in one hundred thousand.

Elsewhere I've noted that the embedded system problem has been "hyped"to some extent, primarily because many of those systems with an internal calendar are measuring only cycles or intervals of time, not the exact date, and so in most cases their internal calendars were never calibrated with the Gregorian calendar. Such systems will fail eventually if not remediated, but many of the failures will be spread out in time, months or even years after 1/1/2000.

Still, many such systems ARE keeping track of dates, and even some systems measuring only intervals or cycles nevertheless had their calendars calibrated with the Gregorian calendar (because the chip maker didn't know what specific use the "generic" chip would finally be put to). There will indeed be some sort of "spike" in failures of embedded systems next January; it's just that nobody knows how large that spike will be, where the failures will occur, how much of a "domino effect" there will be, etc. The bottom line: the embedded system problem is real and serious, particularly in complex industrial/utility equipment, and any IT group that tries to tell you otherwise is misinformed. Check with the folks at TAVA, Cara, etc.,--people who do lab research on embedded systems for a living--if you don't believe me. In particular, ask TAVA about their remediation work on embedded systems for GM.

-- Don Florence (, January 20, 1999.

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