Beat the clock

Project managers on the year 2000 beat have enough to worry about just fixing
custom-coded applications without having to shake down their computer vendors for
information. But that's happening.

It's time vendors stepped forward with answers to: When will you ship 2000-compliant
applications and systems software? What will they cost us? Where can we get them? Will we
need to upgrade hardware to load the new software?

One big government mainframe vendor, Unisys Corp., claims the 2000 problem is already
history on its 2200-series machines running the current OS2200 System Base 6 operating
system. Customers with this release get 2000-compliant everything--operating system
software, compilers, screen handlers, database managers and communications.

Most Unisys customers in the government have support contracts and will receive this
upgrade at no extra cost, said Daniel Moats, vice president for enterprise server
technologies at Unisys Federal Systems in McLean, Va. Customers who haven't updated their
software lately could retrofit the 2000 fixes, but Moats doesn't advise it, because it's
more of an effort than moving forward to SB6.

Moats said few agencies would have to upgrade their hardware for OS2200 SB6, but
they'll still need to factor in time and expense for testing their applications against
the new release.

For internal dates, Unisys keeps track of time with a two-word format representing the
number of nanoseconds since midnight of Jan. 1, 1900, with routines provided to break that
format out ""any which way you want it,'' Moats said. ""Year first,
month first, day first--you'll always get a four-digit year.''

OS2200 SB6 appears on quite a few government contracts. The big ones are the IRS'
Service Center Support Services, Housing and Urban Development's Integrated Information
Processing Services, Air Force Global Combat Support Systems and General Services
Administration Multiple-Award Schedule contracts.

Unisys has corrected the date rollover problem for its A-series mainframes by making
MCP/AS 2000-ready at the current Release Level 43. And all the company's Unix machines
have been compliant ""from day one,'' Moats said.

That accounts for most of the government's Unisys hardware except the aging Unisys 386
PCs bought back in the Desktop III days. Fixing those internal clocks will force system
administrators to change system dates manually in the BIOS setup or turn to utility
software that hundreds of sites on the World Wide Web will give away in 1999.

Phoenix Technologies Ltd., the largest system BIOS source in the industry and a Unisys
supplier, plans to post its conversion utility on the company's Web site at  in early 1999. The BIOS chips
in Unisys PCs shipped from about 1994 on already know about the year 2000 and beyond.

If you have other year 2000 questions for Unisys, start by calling Mike Adelman at
703-556-5029. And if you have other stories or queries about 2000, send e-mail to this
column at the address below.

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