FAA and GSA do some final date code testing

FAA and GSA do some final date code testing

By Patricia Daukantas

GCN Staff

Branches of the Federal Aviation Administration and General Services Administration have run their final year 2000 readiness check for several mission-critical systems through the services of a Burlington, Mass., contractor.

Primeon Inc. audited systems for FAA's Aviation Research and Acquisition Division and GSA's Federal Supply Service. Primeon's Y2K Audit Service examines source code for interaction errors that linger after basic year 2000 fixes, said the company's marketing director, Steve Karlson.

Primeon built its own tools rather than using off-the-shelf pattern-matching software for the audits, Karlson said. Although pattern matching is a mandatory part of year 2000 testing, a full audit should look at the logical flow of interactions between applications, he said.

"People think the problem lies in the older stuff, and the older stuff is traditionally Cobol," Karlson said. But that's not true. We've found brand-new systems, maybe written in 1998 or 1999, that have been coded with date-related errors.

Primeon audits software at its Massachusetts headquarters and then goes to customer sites to review possible year 2000 program conflicts, Karlson said.

Ray Hanline, FSS' chief information officer, said his agency started working on the year 2000 problem in 1995, when a five-year contract encompassing the millennial year crashed a computer in the procurement office.

After Hanline heard about the Primeon services, he and a couple of his staff members met with company representatives and agreed to a sample test.

"We were kind of cocky because we thought everything was 100 percent clean," Hanline said.

But when Primeon found a few small but significant errors, we lost our cockiness, Hanline said.

Primeon has audited 17 mission-critical systems for FSS, said GSA computer specialist Dick Young. Primeon checked about 2.1 million lines of Cobol code on FSS' Unisys NX4802 legacy mainframes and 900,000 lines of code, mostly in C and Sybase PowerBuilder, running on SunSoft Solaris platforms, he said.

The audit turned up roughly a dozen remaining date code errors across the 17 systems, Hanline said. Even one of the errors, he said, would have crashed FSS databases for about a day and hurt the agency in business and credibility.

The whole Primeon audit cost FSS about $500,000, Hanline said. He called Primeon's reports exceptionally good and said they were almost always on time.

Richard Boe, FAA's program manager for aviation research and acquisition, said his division hired Primeon last December to audit the source code of its five or six most code-intensive systems. We're strictly looking at the high-risk, high-complexity systems that have lots of software, he said.

Natural selection

Boe said he chose Primeon because the company goes beyond standard independent verification and validation testing.

"They're on the GSA schedule, they're easy to get to, they said the right words for high-criticality systems," he said.

FAA had fallen behind in its year 2000 testing before the establishment of an agency-level year 2000 shop, Boe said.

Former FAA year 2000 program manager Ray Long brought in his team and established agencywide policy that we were all compelled to follow, kicking and screaming, but it was the best thing that ever happened to us, he said.

The Primeon audit found no errors in the operational code, only in support software such as screen-alignment tools, Boe said.

"The first system Primeon did for us, they found the cleanest code they'd ever seen," he said. He reported that the contractor pinpointed 10 noncritical errors in 300,000 lines of code in one system and three such errors in another 1.5 million lines of code.

"We were impressed with how well they had done their remediation," Karlson said of Boe's division at FAA. "That's a good sign. They're taking it seriously and working hard on it, and they're on a par with or ahead of some of the private-sector companies we work with."

How DOD will spend its emergency Y2K money
' Army operation and maintenance$14,300
' Navy operation and maintenance$21,500
' Marine Corps operation and maintenance$6,200
' Air Force operation and maintenancee$14,700
' DOD-wide operation and maintenance$29,100
' Air Force Reserve operation and maintenance$288
' Army procurement$5,000
' Navy procurement$451
' Air Force procurement$18,600
' DOD-wide procurement$10,200
' Army research, development, test and evaluation$8,700
' Air Force research, development, test and
' DOD-wide research, development, test and


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