SSA posts date code help

A date code database, developed by the Social Security Administration, will open for
browsing Dec. 1, SSA officials said this month. The home page for the site, at http://y2k.policyworks.gov, is active now.


"We are doing a lot of testing in the federal government and thought this could be
a way to share that information," said Kathleen Adams, SSA assistant deputy
commissioner for systems.


Adams said the database is divided into two sections. The first has information
supplied by company officials about which of their products meet the government's year
2000-ready requirements. The information is highly detailed and lists the versions of
software that meet the government's criteria. It also includes information on patches
needed to fix software that is not year 2000-ready, she said.


Most vendors participating in the pilot manually enter year 2000 information into the
system, Adams said. But large companies such as IBM Corp. place links to their own year
2000 home pages.


"We won't be linking to their advertising pages," Adams said. "But if a
large company already maintains current information about their products, we will let them
put in a link directly to that information instead of having to maintain two sites."


The second part of the database contains results from federal agency tests on software
that vendors touted as year 2000-ready. So far, SSA has contributed the bulk of the
testing data, Adams said.


NASA, the Air Force and Mitre Corp. of Bedford, Mass., which has done tests for
agencies, also provided test data, she said. The system has space for every federal agency
to upload results, Adams said, adding that she hopes to persuade more agencies and
companies to share data.


Like the first part of the database, the federal-supplied records are highly detailed,
Adams said. They include testing methods and operating environment information.


SSA computer specialists Steve Haas and Pam Waters built the database. Haas estimated
the database contains several thousand product specifications supplied by vendors, and a
few hundred federal agency test results.


Vendors and federal agencies that submit information must go through password
procedures to enter information, but anyone will be able to browse the files, Haas said.


SSA paid for the project with $180,000 it received from the Chief Information Officers
Council. Most of the money will go to hiring staff that will maintain the database, Adams
said.


On Dec. 1, the General Services Administration will take control of the database. GSA
is responsible for hiring the maintenance crew.


Essential to the staff is a records verifier, Adams said. Industry participants voiced
concerns that testing data might go against what a vendor had stipulated, she said.


The verifier will examine all records before they are posted on the system. If a
conflict is found, the agency and the vendor must try to work out their differences, Adams
said.


"That way, if there is conflicting information, at least we will know that they
talked," Adams said.


The tests SSA has run so far show that conflicting information is rare.


It is rumored that much of the software vendors claim is year 2000-ready isn't, Adams
said.


"But we have not found that. If a vendor says software is compliant, we are
finding that in a very high percentage, it is," she said. "That is
comforting."


About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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