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1998-04-22 11:42:37


More Interconnections Means Vastly More Vulnerability



CIO Magazine is aimed at chief information officers -- the guys in charge of corporate computer systems. This recent essay by the magazine's publisher points to the problem of interconections. Before y2k surfaced, a large number of interconnections was believed to be beneficial. Not now.

* * * * * *

If you know the work of Bob Metcalfe, vice president of technology at IDG (a sister company to CIO Communications Inc.), you may have heard of Metcalfe's Law, which says that as a corporation connects any number (N) of digital devices to its network, (N squared) value accrues to the corporation.

It's simple and clean. More employees connected, more information shared. The network becomes more valuable as a corporate asset.

CIOs have long marched to the beat of Metcalfe's Law by connecting hundreds of millions of workers to local, wide area and corporate intranets. Economists often point to the networked economy as a major reason underscoring America's economic health. . . .

The information superhighway is a double-edged sword. Companies committed to extending their information assets over the Internet--no matter how potent their firewall and/or data encryption policies--are more vulnerable to data corruption from others in the information food chain. . . .

Every cola has an "uncola." The uncola of Metcalfe's Law is Beach's Law of Vulnerability: The number (N) of computing devices a corporation and its partners have connected via extranets results in (N squared) the risk of having data corrupted.

With 21 months remaining to January 2000, I'm concerned there isn't enough time to remedy completely the year 2000 problem. I'm not alone.

William McDonough, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, puts it this way: "The failure to get the year 2000 issue right will affect the integrity of the payments system and the performance of the global economy."

In February the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the watchdog agency that regulates 6,200 banks across America, issued the results of a year 2000 audit. Its findings are startling: The efforts of 124 banks are "unsatisfactory" and 1,128 banks "need improvement." The FDIC--itself eight months behind on its year 2000 solutions--plans to begin closure proceedings on the most lethargic banks by September of this year. How many banks will close before the Wall Street bears knock several thousand points off the Dow Jones and NASDAQ averages and convince aging baby boomers to put their retirement nest under a pillow?

How confident is the technology industry that the year 2000 challenge will be met by Dec. 31, 1999? Not very, if assembly bill 1710, currently proposed in the California state legislature, is any indication. Bill 1710 would limit year 2000 lawsuits for hardware and software companies to "bodily injury and the costs of correcting the problem itself."


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