When compliance is not

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I guess upgrading is not always easy. There are just so many variables to this.

Y2K a Tough Climb for Oracle ERP Users

Release 10.7 not fully complaint; users face migrations or application patch-ups

By Craig Stedman 04/12/99 Users of Oracle Corp.'s ERP applications are making their systems year 2000-compliant by installing new releases. But for many, that hasn't been easy.

Take The Christian Science Publishing Society. To solve its year 2000 problems, the Boston-based newspaper publisher next week plans to finish a crash, six-week upgrade to the newest version of the financial applications in Oracle's enterprise resource planning (ERP) suite.

That wasn't what the society had in mind last June when it installed Oracle's 10.7 software  which, like the new Release 11, was supposed to be able to handle year 2000 date changes.

But two months ago, the society got a splash of cold water from Oracle consultants who were called in to examine its system. They handed over a list of about 60 year 2000-related software patches that had to be added to the applications.

"When it comes down to it, you can't buy 10.7 out of the box and be Y2K-compliant," said Ray Wallett, applications project manager at the publishing society. "It's ready to be compliant, but it's not compliant. And that's a fine difference."

Instead of patching, Wallett said, the society jumped to Release 11  an upgrade free of year 2000 patches but one that required a fast switch from its Windows-based, client/server setup to three-tiered Web applications. Several other users said they also faced heavy patching to get 10.7 set for year 2000 but decided upgrading to Release 11 was too big a change to make at the same time as a year 2000 fix.

For example, after upgrading to 10.7 last year, Watkins-Johnson Co. "realized immediately ... that Y2K problems persisted" in the software, said Joe Dorsey, manager of information systems at the maker of wireless communications products and semiconductor production equipment.

But switching to Release 11 would have required a database upgrade and the retraining of end users who are still using Oracle's character-mode screens, Dorsey said. Watkins-Johnson added more than a dozen patches to 10.7, some "as large as minor upgrades," he said. Included were two custom patches developed by Oracle for Watkins-Johnson and several application scripts that the Palo Alto, Calif., company wrote itself. Final testing is due to be finished this month.

Year 2000 migrations are expected to be a hot topic at next week's spring conference of the independent Oracle Applications Users Group (OAUG) in San Diego. But an OAUG official defended Oracle, saying it "has been very open and proactive" about the need for patching Release 10.7.

Ron Wohl, senior vice president of applications development at Oracle, said it put a high priority on "communicating everything that customers have to do" to become year 2000-compliant.

-- Mike Lang (webflier@erols.com), April 15, 1999

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