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A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

University Transition Period Began 18 Months Ago

By Matthew Winston

Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 07 - October 9, 1997

Virginia Tech has already taken major steps to bringing its centralized computing environment to "Year 2000 compliance." The university's transition period began about 18 months ago, when the task force assigned to bringing university systems to compliance was formed. Administrative Information Systems assessed the university's computing environment at that time, made recommendations and received funding and staffing approval to begin implementing its transition plan.
The university's mainframe system is a vital component to the successful operation of the university. All financial and student records and the software used to manipulate this data resides on Tech's mainframe system. This is why one of the key steps to the university's transition is bringing the mainframe system to Y2K compliance.
"If you try to wait until just a few weeks or months--even one to two years--before New Years Day of the year 2000," said Fred Medley of Tech's Administrative Information Systems, "well, it's just going to be too late to fix these Y2K problems effectively and efficiently.
"There are reasons that are both technical and financial that suggest that people really begin moving ahead on their Y2K transition projects as soon as possible," Medley said.
Many of the technical justifications for fixing problems now range from the problems with two-digit data fields used in older programming codes to software incompatibility and even to leap year. But Medley says that the financial factors are the most compelling reasons to make the transition now rather than later.
"The resources that will be available to us and the rest of the world as we move closer to the year 2000 will be less available and more expensive," Medley said. "The demand for Y2K programmers and other resources is expected to climb in a graduated fashion between now and December 1999, according to industry analysts. Each year and each month, the market value of these resources and staffing will increase dramatically.
"We have been able to complete major portions of our transition plan early. If we didn't, we would have not been able to afford the resources necessary to do so," Medley said.
The task force set a goal of having hardware and software to bring the university's mainframe system into compliance by December 1988. The university is using an IBM Enterprise Server and has already invested in and began using MVS OS/390, new operating-system software. The hardware is cheaper than the former system as the platform and software are supported by IBM. The MVS OS/390 operating system is Year 2000-compliant.
"The transition process is tough, but is probably a more tedious task than a more difficult one," says Susan Bright, who serves as assistant manager for user services in AIS. "An equally tough phase that requires a lot of effort is the testing phase. We ask all users who routinely interface with the university's mainframe system to run their programs on the Y2K compatible system so that we can work out the glitches."
Bright says that the hardware and software transition phase will be completed by December 1998 so that testing and troubleshooting can take place over the course of the 1999 year.
"We shouldn't wait until 1999 to begin troubleshooting," Bright cautions. "In fact, we are asking users to help with testing even now."
This past weekend, the computer center asked users to test their software over the weekend. The tests are designed to give AIS and end users an idea as to how the new operating system is going to work. These tests will continue over the next few weeks. The computing center hopes to replace the old MVS/XA operating system with the MVS OS/390 system, putting the new system in production on by target date October 19.
For more information about this mainframe operating conversion, check FASTLINE on the mainframe, or visit FASTLINE on the Internet at http://www.cc.vt.edu/cc/us/fastline.html.