Reuters - *Cures for Y2K Could Destabilize Computers* - ***OOOPS*** : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread


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Cures for Y2K Could Destabilize Computers

Dec 08, 1999

By Neil Winton

LONDON (Reuters) - Some cures for the millennium computer bug might do more harm than good.

With just about every big company in the world spending millions of dollars on new equipment to thwart the bug, experts are worrying that Y2K solutions themselves might actually lead to crippling computer crashes.

Ironically, companies which are dutifully protecting their businesses from the bug, are unwittingly exposing them to problems induced by new systems.

It is a truism in the information technology business that new projects are always late and over budget. It often takes weeks, sometimes months, to shake down new computers and make sure they provide the functions promised.

"One of the major (millennium computer bug) problems is the need to change IT systems, a challenge at the best of times that often run over budget and over time. Introducing new systems in a limited time-frame introduces all sorts of new problems,'' said the Y2K pressure group Taskforce 2000.

Spending to cure the millennium computer bug has been huge.

The U.S. information technology research company Gartner Group has said companies around the world would have to spend between $300 billion and $600 billion to fix the problem. IDC, another U.S. high technology consultancy, estimated in a report last month that by the end of 1999, companies will have spent $250 billion finding, replacing, rewriting, testing and documenting computer code infected by the bug.

And all because programmers in the 1980s used two digits to record dates on software, knowing that this could trip over the two zeros in 2000 and cause computers to crash or spew out corrupt data.


There has already been a rash of computer systems crashes which have damaged businesses.

Earlier this year the food distributor International Multifoods of Chicago saw its business disrupted when it installed a new Y2K-ready computer system. It failed to gel with the company's traditional order system and crippled business for weeks.

In Britain, the china and crystal glass maker Royal Doulton said it lost between 10 million and 12 million pounds ($16.25 million to $19.50 million) in sales following the failure of its new warehouse management software installed to ready the company for the millennium bug. The new software was unable to handle orders for sets of five plates for the U.S. market and recognized only orders for single items.

The U.S. confectioner Hershey Foods saw its traditional Halloween business trashed when its new computer using software from SAP AG and Siebel Systems disrupted its supply system.

Experts also point to computer crashes at Whirlpool Corp, Allied Waste Industries, and Waste Management Inc. Procter & Gamble Co, giant maker of Tide detergent, Crest toothpaste and Pampers diapers, said last month it had problems with its the global database system called SourceOne.


Peter Barnes, general manager of Survive! International, said information technology problems are often triggered by a failure to correctly analyze system requirements.

"Where the same failures have been applied to Y2K remediation or avoidance projects, the impact of failure is likely to be greater particularly where a company believes it has built an effective replacement for a non-compliant system but finds that the new system fails,'' Barnes said.

Survive! is an independent international user group for business which advises on preparing for problems from unforeseen disasters such as computer failure, the loss of key personnel and infrastructure from fires, floods and terrorist attacks.

Mitul Mehta, Senior European Research Manager at technology consultant Frost & Sullivan, said that many businesses which are spending large sums on anti-Y2K repairs are also deciding to upgrade their computers generally at the same time.

``That's where I see problems. They're saying we might as well put in e-commerce and web-based supply chain offerings, data warehousing and business intelligence etcetera,'' Mehta said.

`This means exposing systems to a whole set of applications and whole new way of doing things.''

Mehta believes that this behavior is typical at medium to large companies in the retail, information technology and telecommunications businesses.


Fons Kuijpers of the PA Consulting Group is much more sanguine about the problem.

Most companies have completed Y2K remediation work with plenty of time to spare, according to Kuijpers.

``I personally don't think there's going to be a massive problem,'' Kuijpers said.

Does he believe the much-hyped millennium bug problem is more of a damp squib than potential disaster?

``I think that's a fair assessment. There will be mishaps but they will be fairly minor, not as disastrous as people were predicting when the problem first emerged. Companies have though found significant problems which undetected and unfixed would have impacted on operations in a significant manner,'' Kuijpers said.

Tim Johnson, consultant at the technology researcher Ovum, is also on the sunny side of the issue.

``We have seen companies trying to install new systems rather rapidly -- Hershey was one even though it was not directly Y2K related. They've been trying to install systems too quickly and had serious problems,'' said Johnson.

"The evidence is that this is a manageable bit of aggravation in the developed world. There's a good bet that something nasty will happen somewhere; more likely in the developing rather than developed world,'' Johnson said.



-- snooze button (, December 08, 1999


The important thing to note is that the problems documented in the article are for NEW systems that have been ramrodded into place to be ready for Y2K, without adequate migration from the old systems.

One January 1, 2000 hits, we will then see problems from systems that were not replaced but rather had Y2K "fixes" ramrodded into place. Thus, effectively, causing a "double whammy" with the replaced systems that are crumbling.

It will not be pretty.

-- King of Spain (madrid@aol.cum), December 08, 1999.

Good post...thank you!

-- Elaine Seavey (, December 08, 1999.

I wonder if that idiot over at the Wall street Journal should get this Article as an early Christmas present, along with Dale Ways essay.

-- d----- (, December 08, 1999.

Uh, let's back up here for a moment.

This story says "millions" of businesses are going to new hardware. It has been estimated (elsewhere) that about 25% of them have switched to entirely new software systems.

Of the 25% of "millions" who have done so, Taskforce 2000 (accurately called a "pressure group" by Reuters) has identified seven (7) that have encountered newsworthy problems in the process. All seven are still in business, and most of these have apparently recovered satisfactorily. The remaining very large number of organizations migrating to new software systems have neither had newsworthy problems nor economic impact. KOS uses the word "crumbling" to describe this widespread experience of successful adaptation. I wonder if KOS thinks fat people really *are* slender if he calls them "slim"?

We also know that remediated code is being returned to production continuously. Such code has not yet encountered most dates in 2000 except in testing, but it has encountered most errors introduced by the remediation process. To the degree that the test coverage was incomplete, there remains a danger that remediated code won't handle 2000 dates properly.

The key point is that businesses have *already* encountered most of their problems. Those who went to new implementations, and have had to change some of their businesses process as a result, have been doing so for some time now. Those who migrated existing code to new hardware (and the accompanying new operating system, environment, and language versions) have *already* suffered the slings and arrows of a significant switchover, even if they have yet to fix a single date bug they're responsible for.

KOS seems to feel that the pains of switching have somehow been postponed until the century actually changes. This is simply false. Companies are observably NOT waiting until January 1 to "throw the switch" to thier new implementationss, new hardware, newly remediated code, etc.

So what remains to be encountered is actual date bugs that the remediation process either didn't get to, or that slipped through the testing. The questions are, (1) How many businesses failed to upgrade their systems and will have nasty system-level problems; (2) How many organizations haven't bothered to do *anything* yet, and how important are they, and (3) For those who have already switched to new systems, how debilitating will the missed date bugs be? It seems reasonable that those who have suffered through the switch to SAP or the like have their (internal) y2k problems behind them.

Unless the economic significance of those who never started or are a LONG way from ready is MUCH larger than even Taskforce 2000 estimates, KOS's "double whammy" is more like a quarter-whammy. There will surely be plenty of horror stories to be gleaned off the net, but the affect on most of our daily lives would seem minor.

Organizations like Taskforce 2000 are good indicators, since if even they can't find a whole lot to worry about, things can't be that bad. And you can still purchase subscriptions to Remnant Review.

-- Flint (, December 08, 1999.

Flint, you have to be the STOOPIDEST prattle butt I've ever read.

Only a total idiot would assume that **because** the writer only documented seven cases of failure that there are **only** seven cases of failure in existence.

Your stupidity is so vast and dense that even my piercing immagination cannot penetrate it. It is unfathomably dense. It is loathesome in its pathetic and desperate attempts to turn lead into gold. Are you sure you are related to that Wooly Mammoth they just dug up out of the ice? I'm sure your kind should have been extinct long ago.

-- paul leblanc (, December 08, 1999.


Do you feel better now that's off your chest? Like maybe, better enough to address the points I made?

And oh yes, I mentioned seven because it turns out that's all the sleuths on this forum have been able to find either. And if there were so much as a whiff of problems, people here would find it and parade it around endlessly. You know this. Your point collapses. Try another. Show us MORE of your big brain -- the part you just flashed surely doesn't do you justice, does it?

-- Flint (, December 08, 1999.

"All seven are still in business, and most of these have apparently recovered satisfactorily." I do not know about an ultimately satisfactory outcome for the other 6 businesses, but I dare say Royal Doulton is probably not going to survive. When losses reached critical mass, Doulton was forced to tell their shareholders how serious the matter was, and that it could get worse still. Doulton's stock dropped 25 points or so over night. Rival company, Waterford, managed to buy 15% of Doulton's plunging stock in a bid at a hostile takeover. Waterford is still attempting to purchase more stock, and Royal Doulton is seeking a friendlier buyer before there is nothing left to sell. 'Tis a sad thing to see this old company getting taken down by failing technology.

-- (, December 08, 1999.

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