Early action put Agriculture's finance center ahead of Y2K curve

Early action put Agriculture's finance center ahead of Y2K curve

NFC director John Ortego made year 2000 the a No. 1 priority and set a code repair deadline of June 1998.

It set up a mainframe dubbed the Time Machine to test for errors by advancing apps' dates to 2000

By Frank Tiboni

GCN Staff


After three years and 23.5 million lines of code, the National Finance Center in New Orleans is ready to process 425,000 civilian paychecks as usual come 2000.

'I don't anticipate any major problems,' said Ed McManus, man-ager of NFC's Year 2000 Readiness Project. 'I don't think there will be any showstoppers.'

The Agriculture Department center will have more than 200 people working around the clock on rollover weekend to ensure that its six major systems run smoothly, he said.

'I think we have every contingency covered,' McManus said. 'We've tested our generators. The only contingency we can't control is a disruption in water.'

NFC's Y2K Rollover Plan kicks into action on Dec. 29 at 6 a.m., when the center will begin a total system save. On Dec. 31 at 9 p.m., NFC will put its four mainframes into idle mode, hoping to restart them eight hours later after monitoring the date change around the world from its Y2K Command Center, McManus said.

'We're definitely ready,' he said.

Four years ago

NFC began the $14 million renovation in 1995 with an assessment of the 138 applications in its six systems: payroll and personnel, thrift savings plan, accounting, bills and collection, property, and administration payroll. The systems run on two IBM Corp. mainframes.

The year 2000 program at NFC gained momentum in August 1997 when John Ortego became director of the center.

'He felt we were not doing enough on Y2K,' McManus said.

Ortego created the position of year 2000 readiness project manager and named McManus to it in November 1997. The 55-year-old software developer, who helped build many of the systems in the center, was then associate director of the Information Resource Management Division.

'Ortego made Y2K our No. 1 priority,' McManus said. 'He wanted all program code repaired and back into production by June 1998.'

McManus can rattle off a laundry list of the center's code. He broke the job into Cobol, which makes up 50 percent of NFC's code, and non-Cobol code, which includes assembler language; ADS/O, a transaction language on integrated database management systems from Computer Associates International Inc.; CSP/dBase II, an IBM transaction language; Easytrieve, a CA reporting language; and C and C++

Initially, NFC farmed out some code work, but it ultimately brought all the code work in-house. It took too long to harvest the code, get it to the contractor for repair and then get it back for review, McManus said.

The center assigned 300 people to the job so it could meet Ortego's June 1998 deadline, McManus said.

To test for systems errors, the center set up a single-processor mainframe dubbed the Time Machine. It advanced all applications' dates to 2000 to look for problems. The center ran applications on the time machine independent of its production systems to prevent date contamination, McManus said.

The center also had to replace some of its hardware to ready systems for 2000. After an inventory, NFC decided to replace 980 PCs, some CD-ROMs and some of its voice response systems, McManus said.

After making code fixes, the center would again test the applications on the Time Machine. From June through December of last year, NFC validated the applications, completing the process by Dec. 18.

All fixed

'We found a few things but made the appropriate corrections,' McManus said. ''The Agriculture Department then followed up with an independent verification and validation by two vendors. The IV&V contractors found problems in approximately 5 percent of the code, which the center corrected, he said.

NFC made the time machine available to the 100 agencies it serves, including the Treasury and Commerce departments' the center's biggest clients. The center has also held presentations over the past year to let clients know where NFC stands on year 2000 readiness.

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