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Preparing for the Year 2000 Transition
by Clint Brown and Nathalie Smith

Editor's Note: Esri is implementing a comprehensive program to help our users make their transition to the Year 2000. We want to describe our plans to help you prepare and to point you in the right direction for additional information to meet your specific requirements for the Year 2000 transition.

With January 1, 2000, only a few months away there is a need to act now to plan your transition to the Year 2000. As you are probably well aware from the constant media attention, the Year 2000 issue will affect many aspects of our lives. In the software domain,he Year 2000 issue can occur at many different levels of technology–hardware, software, and database. The accompanying story, "Year 2000: Points of Exposure," details these levels.

Over the past few months Esri has been planning its transition and working on a comprehensive plan to help you prepare for your transition with respect to Esri products. Esri's plan covers eight main objectives for Year 2000 compliance:

  1. Communicate a clear statement on what Esri means by Year 2000 compliance.
  2. Provide a compliance rating for each product release.
  3. Ship products that are Year 2000 compliant beginning in 1998.
  4. Provide a Year 2000 Web site for Esri customers.
  5. Develop tests and publish test criteria for Year 2000 compliance.
  6. Provide our customers with a checklist on how to successfully make the Year 2000 transition.
  7. Help users move from older releases to compliant releases.
  8. Provide strong Year 2000 support for each product.

1. Communicate a clear statement on what Esri means by Year 2000 compliance.

The cornerstone for our support is Esri's Year 2000 compliance statement. This statement defines what we mean when we say our software will not fail due to the changeover to Year 2000 and beyond. Esri studied many of the Year 2000 compliance standards and selected the criteria established by the British Standards Institution (BSI) DISC PD2000-1, "A Definition of Year 2000 Conformity Requirements," as the compliance criteria for Esri software.

Esri YEAR 2000 COMPLIANCE STATEMENT

DEFINITION: "Year 2000 Compliant" shall mean that neither performance nor functionality of Esri software, when used in accordance with its documentation, is affected by dates prior to, during, and after the year change from December 31, 1999, to January 1, 2000, provided all other software, hardware, firmware, and accurate date data used with the Esri software properly exchange date data with the Esri software.

Table 1-Year 2000 Compliance Categories
Table 1

YEAR 2000 CONFORMITY REQUIREMENTS

Rule 1. No value for the current date will cause any interruption in operation.

Rule 2. Date-based functionality must behave consistently for dates prior to, during, and after Year 2000.

Rule 3. In all interfaces and data storage, the century in any date must be specified either explicitly or by unambiguous algorithms or inferencing rules.

Rule 4. Year 2000 must be recognized as a leap year.

The Year 2000 compliance statement is on our Year 2000 Web site and can also be obtained from Esri's Contracts Department.

2. Provide a compliance rating for each product release.

Esri maintains a status report on the level of Year 2000 compliance for each of its software releases. Our feeling is that it is most effective for us to issue a compliance statement for every product release. In other words, we classify each release instead of providing one overall rating for each product.

Esri has classified each product release into one of five categories: compliant, compliant with minor issues, not compliant, testing, yet to be completed, and will not test. See Table 1 for the descriptions of these categories of compliance.

All minor issues are documented and fully described. All the up-to-date information for each product release is maintained at Esri's Year 2000 Web site.

3. Ship products that are Year 2000 compliant beginning in 1998.

Beginning in 1998, Esri began shipping new product releases that meet our Year 2000 compliance criteria. All future product releases will be certified to meet these criteria as well. The rating for new releases will be either "Compliant" or "Compliant with minor issues," as described in the compliance rating section above. Whenever possible, you should move to these new applications in your organization in a well-coordinated, managed transition.

4. Provide a Year 2000 Web site for Esri customers.

Esri is posting important product information and guidance on Year 2000 issues on a new Esri Web site. This site is publicly available for our customers to easily get information about topics such as

  • Esri's Year 2000 compliance statement
  • Compliance ratings for each release
  • Known issues in each release
  • Descriptions of date handling and support in each product
  • Frequently asked questions about Year 2000
  • Descriptions of Year 2000 certification tests
  • Helpful tips on ensuring your site is Year 2000 ready
  • Links to other important Year 2000 Web sites maintained by vendor-related products such as hardware, operating systems, and RDBMS. Frequently asked questions about Year 2000
  • Descriptions of Year 2000 certification tests
  • Helpful tips on ensuring your site is Year 2000 ready
  • Links to other important Year 2000 Web sites maintained by vendor-related products such as hardware, operating systems, and RDBMS.

Esri's Year 2000 public Web site is found at www.esri.com/y2000

At this Web site, you can select specific software releases of interest to you and access reports that list the compliance level and relevant Year 2000 support information for each software release. These reports also include useful information about date support and handling in each product. The Web site also has an E-mail alias where you can send further questions and inquiries about Year 2000 issues.

Information on this site is frequently updated so you should visit it periodically. Compliance information on new software and new versions of Esri software will be added to this site.

5. Develop tests and publish test criteria for Year 2000 compliance.

Many users have asked for details on our Year 2000 test criteria for Esri software. The tests themselves involve many steps to configure all of the computer platforms supported by Esri and to run a series of automated and interactive test scenarios to ensure Year 2000 compliance. The process involves isolating the computers and networks, setting system clocks ahead to high-risk dates such as February 29, 2000, running the test suites in a systematic way, and analyzing test results.

Our tests are based on the British Standards Institution DISC PD2000-1 rules for conformity as described above. For each rule, Esri has created appropriate tests for each of its product releases. Because of the exceptional system configurations (from setting system dates for the future), as well as the complexity and totality of the tests, Esri cannot share its actual test suites with users. Instead, Esri provides a description of the test criteria used at its Web site. These test descriptions define the actions we tested with various system configurations and system clock dates. The accompanying article, "ArcInfo Test Criteria," provides an example of the test criteria for ArcInfo.

6. Provide our customers with a checklist on how to successfully make the Year 2000 transition.

Esri wants to help its customers plan for their Year 2000 transition and to approach the problem systematically. To support this effort, Esri plans on a comprehensive program to provide you with helpful information to plan for Year 2000 compliance at your site. This includes providing the information at our Web site, sessions at user conferences, as well as future mailings to customer sites. The goal is to provide you with helpful tips on how to make the transition with GIS software. The side bar "A Checklist for Year 2000 Compliance" details some of the steps you will need to go through to plan your transition.

7. Help users move from older releases to compliant releases.

Often, many users have older releases of Esri software running on older hardware with older operating systems. There can be issues with testing these platforms for Year 2000 compliance, or it may already be clear that certain releases are not compliant. In this situation, the best course is to move to compliant software releases. Esri and its distributors are set to help users in this situation make the move forward. If you need help making this transition, please contact your regional office or an international distributor if you are located outside of the United States.

8. Provide strong Year 2000 support for each product.

Esri continues to test its products for Year 2000 compliance and to provide technical support on Year 2000 issues you may encounter. We have technical support staff available to customers for Year 2000 technical issues. This will ensure that you have access to a person who has a thorough understanding of these issues and how dates are handled in each product.

Summary

Planning for the Year 2000 transition is important and can be done successfully. However, it is a complex procedure because of the various levels of technology involved and the varied compliance standards for each vendor.

It will take time to ensure that you are ready. It is good to get started now on your Year 2000 transition plans. A good place to start will be to visit and spend some quality time at Esri's Year 2000 Web site. It provides useful information and a framework for thinking about the issues involved as well as links to other key sites you will need to visit.


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