Campus Wrapping Up Y2K Preparedness
We've all heard about it. Some of us have even worried about it. The dreaded Year 2000 (Y2K) Problem. Regardless of how well-versed we are in this subject, we should all be aware of UC Davis' Y2K preparedness, for -- like it or not -- Y2K glitches could affect each and every one of us.
The Y2K Problem occurs in both computers and computerized systems (e.g., heating and cooling systems) when a two-digit (99), rather than a four-digit (1999), date field is used to represent a year. When this two-digit field rolls from 99 to 00, faulty systems may mistakenly read the "00" in 2000 to mean the year 1900. Some systems may fail to recognize it, or they may stop functioning altogether.
Year 2000 flaws have been popping up for years in software -- a report recently released said that 82 percent of large companies had already encountered them -- but the first weeks of January are expected to bring the largest volume of malfunctions.
The only way to "fix" the problem is to re-program systems to read four-digit date fields, which takes time and resources.
Because computers are used to manage many aspects of campus life, system failures could prove very disruptive. It is easy to imagine how failure in one information system could corrupt or destroy data in another. The consequences of this could range from annoying to catastrophic.
To head off this problem, the campus has taken a number of measures. In July 1996, efforts began to expose and remediate flaws within centrally-managed applications. A year later, a Year 2000 awareness program was developed to more effectively organize campuswide Year 2000 research and information sharing. The campus Year 2000 Web site was developed shortly thereafter and a seven-part series of presentations was offered to various segments of the campus community.
In July 1997, following a directive from the University of California Office of the President (UCOP), Vice Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Robert Grey requested that all “mission-critical” campus systems be made compliant. Major systems such as the Banner Student Information System, DaFIS, Student Housing, Storehouse, Purchasing, Payroll/Personnel, RSVP, Facilities, Telecommunications and Networking were made a top priority.
With fewer than 40 days left until January 1, 2000, campus administrators and computer system specialists believe that thanks to repairs and replacements, mission-critical campus computer systems will probably avoid major breakdowns when they encounter a year that ends in "00."
Campus information systems, such as Banner, DaFIS and Payroll, are at 99 percent compliance. Water, electricity and sewage systems are in the final stages of remediation, with most systems having no Year 2000 problems or work-arounds already in place. However, many of these systems still rely on outside sources, so the possibility for temporary, isolated problems still exists.
Many of our embedded systems, such as heating, ventilation and air-conditioning, are also expected to work after the Year 2000, though some systems may have to revert back to manual control for some functions. The project managers and programmers involved with those systems continue to maintain communications with vendors to ensure that unexpected problems are dealt with swiftly.
At the academic and research level, nearly all departments have produced Year 2000 compliance reports at Provost Grey’s request. Provost Grey's directive focused on the readiness of academic systems and the assessment of possible risks to instruction and research. Most departments claim a 90% or higher compliance level and have plans in place to achieve full compliance before the Year 2000.
"We do not expect any major disruptions to teaching at UC Davis due to the Year 2000 Problem," said Faust Gorham, UC Davis Year 2000 Coordinator. Gorham emphasizes that he does not foresee catastrophic problems. "I think there are going to be some systems that have some problems when the new year rolls around, just as some businesses and households will," said Gorham. "But I don’t think it will be catastrophic."
The areas on campus most likely to incur Year 2000 problems are desktop systems, data and embedded chips. A large number of Year 2000 departmental coordinators are working hard to ensure that their desktop systems and servers are prepared. Patches are available for most operating systems and applications currently in widespread use on campus. Data contained in spreadsheets or databases are affected only if the data utilized a two-digit date or if the system received date information from a source that is not Year 2000 compliant. For advice and help, contact the person who designed the database or the software manufacturer. Finally, electronics with embedded chips, such as cell phones and fax machines, are expected to work normally, with only some limitations to their functionality.
For assistance or more information, contact the Year 2000 Program Office, the central UC Davis Y2K communications hub. This office provides consultation services and helps coordinate a team of programmers and desktop consultants in solving any problems which may occur shortly before, during and after the rollover on December 31, 1999. (See "Tiger Team Wants You) The Web site (http://y2k.ucdavis.edu) provides a number of resources, including a database of software compliance information, step-by-step guides for fixing Year 2000 problems, patches for download, and work-arounds for applications and operating systems. You may contact the office Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., by phone at (530) 752-7039, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.