2000 work's an inside job

Agencies trying to cope with date code repair mainly are using their own staffs to make
the fixes, leaving vendor year 2000 factories mostly idle.


“The tsunami wave of requirements has not come,” said Barry Robella, a vice
president for strategic programs for Platinum Technology Inc. of Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.


Although year 2000 service vendors have touted their black-box factories as accurate
and efficient, they cannot yet cite a single federal success story. Vendors said they do
have federal contracts but the agencies are reluctant to go public.


Most organizations that work with date code factories take about a year to get
comfortable with them, said Jim Woodward, senior vice president of the TransMillennium
Services Division of Cap Gemini America Inc. of New York.


“People want to take their code through testing and putting it in production for
some time before they’re going to declare victory publicly,” Woodward said.


The federal government simply got started late and hasn’t worked at it long enough
to see the results, he said.


Cap Gemini, which last month released results from its latest poll of information
technology managers, reported that the public sector—federal, state and local
government—is dead last in the survey ranking year 2000 readiness.


Government scored 67 on a zero-to-100 preparedness scale in the survey of 116
corporations and 14 government agencies. The software and financial services sectors led
with scores of 88 and 87, respectively.


Cap Gemini’s ARCDrive application renovation center in Tarrytown, N.Y., which
employs 100 programmers, has the capacity to process 50 million lines of code a month.


“I had expected demand that would put us in a situation where we would have to
turn away business,” Woodward said.


State governments and commercial businesses have taken up some of the slack, several
vendors said. Earlier this month, for example, Wyoming awarded Cap Gemini a $1.3 million
contract for automated inventory validation and impact assessment services.


The Wyoming contract, lasting through the end of next month, will provide an
independent source of data for sizing the problem for client-server networks, said Evonne
Rogers, state year 2000 project manager.


State agencies have reported to her that 30 percent of their mission-critical systems
are fixed, but Rogers wants an accurate, independent source of information to back up
claims.


She suspects the percentage of ready systems may be higher than 30 percent but said,
“I need a good, solid baseline to make a funding request to complete the state’s
year 2000 work.”


Wyoming agencies, which so far have spent about $10 million on the year 2000 project,
have received no direct funding for date code work. The state has had an active year 2000
project for the past two years, Rogers said.


“As we’re getting through the inventory validation process, I’m becoming
less worried,” she said.


The state’s mainframe information systems run about 25 million lines of Cobol, 1.5
million lines of Focus and 5 million lines of Natural application code.


“We have a fairly well-organized shop with standardized naming conventions and
standardized tools that we encourage people to use,” she said.


Prospects for factory vendors in the federal government could still turn around, said
some vendors who remain hopeful of winning a few large federal contracts.


“We’re getting lots of questions now,” said Jill Goldberg, director of
business development for MatriDigm Corp. of San Jose, Calif.


MatriDigm is one of a dozen or so software renovation vendors that sell tools they
claim provide a high degree of factorylike automation, process control and predictability.


Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego and Mela Associates Inc. of
Vienna, Va., have installed such tools in the software factory they opened last month in
Falls Church, Va.


The engine for the SAIC factory is C-Mill for IBM MVS, VAX/VMS and Unix, a
multilanguage tool suite from an Israeli software house, Crystal Systems Solutions Ltd.


Federal program managers have been uneasy about sending their code to off-site
factories, said Ed Thal, client executive for a new consortium of General Services
Administration Information Technology Schedule vendors that includes DMR Consulting Group
Inc. of Edison, N.J., Amdahl Corp. and Platinum Technology.


“The hurricane is coming, and some folks are still on the beach or playing in the
water,” Thal said. The companies working together can host an on-site virtual factory
for civilian or military agencies that still have a lot of work to do on sensitive
programs, he said.


Some factory vendors interviewed expressed hope that the market for year 2000 code work
will extend beyond 2000. But Cap Gemini’s Woodward said that is unrealistic.


“If an application is on mothballs for a couple of years, it’s going to be
really hard to get it started again,” Woodward said. “I just don’t buy the
idea that we’re going to have a big bonanza of continuing work after 2000.”
 

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