No silver bullets for Y2K, says consultant

The year 2000 crisis is providing a lucrative market for the so-called 'silver bullet' industry - and that's making life difficult for those working in the Y2K field. "There are a number of products out there claiming to do all sorts of things," says Pat Rossiter, an infrastructure consultant who works in the Y2K arena. He takes umbrage at the kind of product that claims to be a "universal solution" to the Y2K problem.

The year 2000 crisis is providing a lucrative market for the so-called "silver bullet" industry — and that’s making life difficult for those working in the Y2K field.

“There are a number of products out there claiming to do all sorts of things,” says Pat Rossiter, an infrastructure consultant who works in the Y2K arena. He takes umbrage at the kind of product that claims to be a “universal solution” to the Y2K problem.

“I have been working on Y2K issues for quite some time and every claim of the sort made by the Y2K Corporation [Computer-world, November 30] has been shown to be complete rubbish.”

Y2K Corporation is an Australian-based outfit that claims to have produced a universal fix for Y2K. Rossiter says no universal software and hardware fix for every piece of equipment from mainframe through to PC is possible.

“The only thing that comes close to being a ‘universal solution’ is the idea of system encapsulation”. By that Rossiter means making a system as standalone as possible and putting some form of interface between it and the rest of the world.

“You would put something in to do translations at each of those interfaces.” Such a system could then run, no matter whether it was internally compliant.

“You would need to put in some mainframe style controls, such as a QA [quality assurance] group.”

Only by assessing every input and output can the system manager be assured of Y2K compliance. Rossiter believes most companies aren’t prepared for that level of assessment.

Ian Howard, a consultant who has been working on Y2K issues for consultants iE3 Group, is also concerned about silver bullet solutions. Howard says the top 2000 companies in New Zealand have done a good job. He says the worst thing about silver bullets is they rust.

“There’s a market that is time-specific and it will be there when the panic sets in.” Howard says silver bullets are “an unattractive solution that the unprepared will be relying on” and he doesn’t want to be around for the legal fallout.

“I suspect many of these [silver bullet] companies don’t have much substance. They have a product but it’ll be a case of everyone’s gone to the Bahamas and there’s no-one left in the shell company to sue. They’re doing what you have to do. But a lot of small businesses are living in hope.”

Rossiter believes small companies are at risk as, in many cases, they don’t have the time or the money to find out about Y2K as a business problem — they simply want a technical fix.

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