While having confidence in your own systems' Y2K readiness is fair enough, the head of one of Australia's largest millennium bug projects warns that theoretical compliance testing is no match for the rigors of testing in a practical, real-life environment.
According to Ken Pritchard, millennium program director at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), the company's year 2000 progress has been somewhat stalled by non-compliant vendor offerings. While this has not had too much of an adverse affect on its Y2K project timing, he said the organization is currently using a "time machine" scenario to ensure its systems are in fact prepared for the turn of the century.
"What we have found were some things that were so-called 'compliant' -- such as vendor packages -- when we've tested them in the time machines in the environment where they live, we've found some that haven't been fully year 2000-ready," Pritchard said.
"I think it's an environmental issue and I think that's something that isn't understood by some people. If your supplier gives you a letter saying it will work, it probably does," Pritchard explained. "But when you actually put it into an integrated environment that has many other things -- where it might feed data and receive data, operating system clocks and hardware clocks -- it's in those environments that you find that you must prove readiness."
Pritchard said the CBA is "looking pretty good" to finalise its A$115 million (US$65.9 million) Y2K activities on time and is even hoping to complete the program under budget. Its time machine testing -- designed to allow it to check for Y2K problems in a simulated business environment -- is also close to completion, he said.
"We started our time machine building in May 1997 on our mainframes. We've built time machines for all our midrange (systems) and also for all of our desktop populations," he said. "Progressively, what we've done is run through time machine testing of all our applications that are both core and business unit-specific. The difference between normal testing and the time machine testing is that the time machine testing is in a year 2000 compliant environment -- where all the hardware and software has been deemed compliant by vendors and checked internally. Then we run through the testing steps and make sure it actually works."
Pritchard said CBA will begin its interbank testing -- which will be managed through the Australian Payments Clearing Association -- in October this year and is on track to conclude that facet of the project by June 1999.