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Vital systems are Y2K-ready, but users asked to 'take a break'

In a presentation last week to the Academic Council, members of MIT's Y2K planning teams reported that key systems such as voice-mail, Athena, e-mail, Internet, Kerberos security, certificates and Tether accounts will all be in service throughout the Y2K transition weekend (December 31, 1999 through January 3, 2000).

Nonetheless, the leader of the Y2K Transition Team is recommending that all users at MIT turn off their personal workstations before 6pm on Friday, Dec. 31 and, if at all possible, leave them off through 9am on Jan. 4, 2000.

"We anticipate that MIT computer users will have full access to their systems throughout the transition weekend," said Gerald I. Isaacson, manager of data security and head of the Y2K Transition Team. "Still, we want to make sure that demand and traffic are at a stress-fee minimum. The best way to do that is to ask people to put off nonessential computer-based activity until after the long New Year holiday weekend."

Mr. Isaacson said he understood that some users would not be able to stay off-line during the holiday weekend and that "people who need to use their computers are always free to do so." He did suggest, however, that computer users both at home and at the office take the precaution of turning off and unplugging their computers for about eight hours from 6pm on December 31 through 1:30 or 2:30am the next morning. "That will cover the period from midnight Greenwich Mean Time, which is the clock used by many international computer systems, right through the local transition into the New Year," he said.

In the same briefing, Year 2000 Team Leader Rocklyn E. Clarke addressed the the larger topic of MIT's overall Y2K compliance.

Unlike the Y2K Transition Team, which is focused on managing the four-day transition weekend, Mr. Clarke's Year 2000 Team has been working for over a year to locate, test and correct Y2K compliance problems in MIT-based computer systems, including embedded computer chips and software in various mechanical and utility systems.

He informed the Academic Council that all of MIT's high-risk enterprise systems, including payroll, facilities, security, telecommunications, utilities, transportation, and most IT systems, had been tested and verified as fully Y2K compliant.

Mr. Clarke also reported that, as of October 31, 188 of MIT's 277 various computer systems were in full compliance with Y2K guidelines. Of the remaining 88 systems, his team estimated that only five would still be noncompliant by November 30. These problem areas, which include some aspects of the ECAT2 electronic supply catalogue, the ICE-9 telephone billing system and the benefits open enrollment/new hire employee self-service system, will receive further attention from MIT and its vendors during December 1999.

Team 2000's goal remains full compliance for MIT systems -- even non-essential systems.

Academic Council members were also given an update on the report from TAVA Technologies, Inc., a consulting firm hired last year by MIT to conduct an assessment of embedded chips and software in various pieces of equipment and in mechanical and utility systems throughout the campus. According to Clarke, TAVA identified some 112 pieces of equipment across the campus that may experience Y2K-related problems.

The results of the TAVA findings, along with information about suspect or noncompliant software, were communicated earlier this year to the relevant departments, laboratories and centers (DLCs), Mr. Clarke said. Each DLC is responsible for taking steps to address any potential problems in their areas of responsibility.

"We're in the home stretch, and, all in all, I think we're in very good shape," he said after the briefing. "What we wanted was not only to bring the deans up to date, but also to ask their help in getting everyone at MIT to take the necessary steps to assure a smooth transition."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 24, 1999.

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