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1998-02-25 08:52:28


How Vendors Can Bankrupt Their Clients



Mainframe computers usually run with vendor software. The source code in these software products is not the property of those who are dependent on them. Users cannot fix the code. They are completely dependent on the vendors. They may receive written assurances that these products will be compliant in 2000, but these claims are not enough. "Trust, but verify," Reagan said about claims of nuclear arms control. It applies to vendor software. The software must be tested. But this takes time and money.

Another problem: compatability. Consider a firm with a hundred separate vendor-supplied applications. No one has tested all of them in the user's environment. Will they all work together?

To test these products thoroughly, organizations must adopt parallel testing techniques. They must put the same data into two machines to see if the results are the same when emulating 2000. This means buying another mainframe. If every company tried to do this, there would not be enough mainframes to buy or time to install them. This is why thorough testing cannot possibly be done, although I have never seen any report that admits this. No one raises the question because it points to the truth: y2k cannot be confidently solved before 2000. But after 2000, it may not be possible to solve it due to a collapse supply system.

Some of these problems are discussed in an article in COMPUTERWORLD (Feb. 23), "Heed the Warning," by Jaikumer Vijayan. Go to the site and use the search engine to retrieve it.

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``It doesn't matter if all the rest of your software works fine. ... If your third-party products aren't fixed, you have a problem,'' agreed Charles Jumonville, a data center manager and member of IBM's AFCOM user group in Baton Rouge, La.

Even so, a recent survey of more than 400 companies ranging in size from $10 million organizations to companies worth several billion dollars by International Data Corp. (IDC) in Framingham, Mass., shows that a substantial number may be underestimating those issues.

Nearly 30% of corporations surveyed that earn more than $100 million and 45% of the companies overall plan to take their vendors' word when it comes to verifying package compliance for year 2000 requirements. Those users have no plans as yet to test the products themselves, or they simply plan not to do any testing. . . .

Problems also can arise because different vendors can take different approaches in achieving year 2000 compliance.

``One of the unique aspects of testing [vendor] products is that, in many cases, we have no idea how the products work and how they use dates because we don't have the source code yet,'' Clark said. Trigon has more than 130 products from outside vendors. ``The issue for us is that we want to make sure that all of these products will continue to work together.''

Testing to make sure they do is proving very expensive, though. None of the tools that works with custom applications works with vendor products.

To test products, users have to replicate their whole production environment and run it as if it were the year 2000. That means buying more hardware or partitioning their mainframes.


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