Daylight saving changes bring warning for ICT managers

New daylight saving dates will require "at a minimum" changes to operating systems as well as software platforms, says solutions architect

A leading local software firm is warning customers about the technology challenges arising from daylight saving time changes.

New daylight saving dates, announced last week, will require “at a minimum” changes to operating systems such as Windows, Sun Solaris and IBM AIX, as well as software platforms such as Java, .Net and Oracle so that applications continue to operate as they should, says Paul Armstrong, solutions architect at Fronde.

“Subtle” issues are involved in accommodating software to changes in daylight saving dates, he says.

“In drawing attention to [the matter] we don’t want to overstate the problem, as perhaps it was with Y2K,” he says in an advice document for customers. “The mere mention of Y2K sends shivers down the spines of many within the IT industry. However, the [daylight saving] issue cannot be ignored.”

Daylight saving will start a week earlier than usual, on Sunday September 30 and end two weeks later than usual, on Sunday April 6, 2008. ICT shops around the country will be working to ensure those changes don’t impact detrimentally on their systems.

Internal affairs minister Rick Barker acknowledges there are implications, saying in a statement that the Department of Internal Affairs will work with computer companies and industries to update operating systems incorporating the time changes before the start of daylight saving.

The Y2K experience has taught vendors and developers to put such routines down at the operating system or platform level, Armstrong says, but as with Y2K, there may be an unknown number of “proprietary” daylight-saving routines buried in applications software. These must be identified and marked for change in time for the new start of this year’s daylight saving period. All changes will, of course, have to be fully tested.

Fronde also advises computer-using organisations and individuals to make sure they are running a fully supported release of the operating system and platform software. “Updating to a major release of the software platform is normally not trivial so if you are on older unsupported releases then you must identify this and mark them for change.”

The September 30 date will see daylight saving come into effect at month-end and quarter-end, the company warns. “This will cause some concern for organisations that rely on month-end and/or quarter-end processing.”

In the US, the daylight saving period for 2007 and later years was shifted by a law change passed in 2005, but despite the long lead-time, software companies are still issuing cautions. Microsoft warns on its website that users of Outlook and other programs involving calendars “should view any appointments as suspect until they communicate with all meeting invitees”.

Analyst firm Gartner suggests poor management of the change could lead to incorrect arrival and departure times in the travel industry, for example.

David Rayner, marketing manager for the Windows client at Microsoft New Zealand, says “there’s obviously a set of complex changes to be worked through” for the local user or Microsoft development partner, and for Microsoft itself, in advising these people.

Microsoft has dealt with the time change in other countries, “so there’s a fairly structured process,” he says.

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