Union Pacific Railroad, whose systems have been tied up for months as a result of its merger with Southern Pacific, predicts "No problem!" for 2000. It can fix its systems if its 16,000 vendors get their computers compliant and then get them to interface with the Union Pacific's computers. If they don't, well, Union Pacific will just go out and get 16,000 new vendors. These 16,000 new vendors will be able to guarantee that their new software will be 100% compliant with Union Pacific's Year 2000-compliant software, should Union Pacific's programmers ever complete the repair, and should the company's approximately 100 software vendors complete their repairs.
And then all the other railroads in North America will do the same.
And these new systems will be fully integreated with each other, so that all trains will be coordinated.
And this will all be done by December 31, 1998 -- leaving a year for testing.
Calling all vendors! All aboard!
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No one ever asks, "What are the odds that 16,000 local suppliers will get their software fixed, and that all 16,000 repairs will be completely integrated with each other?" The odds are so close to zero that betting on a lottery is high finance compared to it.
But the survival of a civilization is at stake. Think: grain shipments, coal shipments to electrical power plants, and chemical shipments. How many industries will be shut down if the railroads fail to keep the trains rolling? How many electrical power plants will have to cut service? How many will shut down in a massive power grid overload?
The U.S. government has set up a Presidential Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection. The Commissioners would be wise to defer any further studies of terrorist groups that could threaten these key infrastructures, including railraods. They had better start dealing with the real threat, which can de dated.
This is from COMPUTERWORLD (Jan. 10).
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"January 1, 2000 — just like any other day."
Red and yellow stickers bearing that slogan appear on bulletin boards, cubicle walls and even in the restrooms at Union Pacific Corp., which entered 1998 in an enviable position.
The $9 billion railroad, based here, is ahead of schedule and $3 million under budget on its $46 million year 2000 project. More than half of the company's mainframe-based programs are fixed. . . .
The big crap shoot involves software and systems furnished to Union Pacific by 16,000 suppliers, software that "is still not known to us," said Don Swanson a 28-year Union Pacific veteran who heads this effort. Those systems include electronic gates at railroad crossings and computerized event recorders, or "black boxes," on locomotives.
Union Pacific has asked suppliers to certify that their equipment is year 2000-compliant. The same requests will go to cities where the railroad has major terminals, financial institutions and utilities, Swanson said.
Union Pacific's strategy couldn't be more plain. "If our vendors don't comply, we're going to find different vendors," he said.