Carrier nears finish line for Y2K fixes

Carrier nears finish line for Y2K fixes

Bell Atlantic implements contingency plans, gives federal progress reports

By William Jackson

GCN Staff

Robert S. Guest says all Bell Atlantic systems that affect federal customers are ready for the year 2000.

After spending four years and $500 million to fix more than 10,000 pieces of network equipment and comb through almost 300 million lines of code, Bell Atlantic Corp. has finished preparing 99 percent of its systems for the century rollover.

The company expects to have the last 1 percent cleaned up this month, said Robert S. Guest, market research manager for Bell Atlantic Federal, which provides voice and data services to federal agencies in a 14-state area, including the capital and its Virginia and Maryland suburbs.

Guest said 14 government groups have asked for and received progress briefings, including the Defense Intelligence Agency, Defense Information Systems Agency, Office of the Architect of the Capitol and House of Representatives.

Having mostly finished remediation and testing, Bell Atlantic is laying contingency plans and setting up an emergency operations center that will be staffed around the clock on critical dates, beginning Sept. 9.

The emergency center will have direct links to the government's National Communications Systems and the Federal Emergency Management Agency as well as regulatory agencies.

Although no systemwide failures are likely, 'we are expecting sporadic switches to go down,' said Andrew P. D'Aloisio, a systems specialist for Bell Atlantic Network Services Inc.

The carrier will be vulnerable to failures of power systems, other public utilities and other telephone companies.

Bell Atlantic's internal date corrections began in 1995. Work on the public switched telephone network and data networks began two years later.

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'We stopped buying anything in 1997 that went into our network that wasn't ready when it came off the assembly line,' Guest said. Bell Atlantic Federal has two people working full time on the year 2000 program, and another 10 to 20 people available as needed.

Network elements and systems were prioritized in four tiers. Of 360 types of network equipment tested, two-thirds required no fixes.

The remaining 10,944 pieces of equipment, including large network switches, did need fixes. The company corrected faults in 673 5ESS switches from Lucent Technologies Inc. of Murray Hill, N.J., 343 DMS100 switches from Northern Telecom Inc., 88 Nortel DMS10 switches and 72 EWSD switches from Siemens AG of Germany. The only switches left to be fixed on June 1 were 27 Nortel DMS100s.

Of Bell Atlantic's 525 network operations support systems with 190 million lines of code, eight critical systems still had to be fixed after June 30. Nineteen critical systems had to be replaced because they no longer are supported. Of 341 billing and business system applications with 93 million lines of code, 96 percent were ready as of April 30.

All systems affecting federal customers were ready, officials reported.

The window for date problems will open Sept. 9, when some apps will register 9999 as an end code. Other windows will open Oct. 1 and Dec. 1, when certain programs look a quarter or a month in ahead, and on Jan. 1. Two months later, Feb. 29 could also confuse computer calendars, because most century years do not have a leap day.

Even if certain software or hardware is affected, it might not show up immediately. 'A switch would not necessarily go down,' D'Aloisio said. 'It might deteriorate over time.'

To guard against such gradual decay, Bell Atlantic will observe a software and network stabilization period, or quiet period, from Nov. 1 through February, when no changes will be made to systems.

Although company officials expect their systems to continue working without interruption, they did offer one caveat.

'If everyone picks up the phone at midnight, Jan. 1, just to see if the dial tone is still there, the public switched telephone network will be swamped no matter how healthy it is,' D'Aloisio said.


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