Micro Focus tool offers `windowing' support

Micro Focus last week introduced a Year 2000 software tool that embraces "windowing " an approach that offers time-pressed organizations a faster way to fix the date-change problem.

Micro Focus' SoftFactory/2000 tool and methodology provides an option to date expansion for preparing computer systems for the Year 2000. Date expansion addresses the Year 2000 snafu by changing two-digit year fields to four-digit year fields in programs. The approach is comprehensive but time-consuming because programs must be modified and recompiled.

SoftFactory/2000 designed for COBOL-based legacy systems will be available in July. The company will sell the product directly to federal agencies on the open market. Pricing was unavailable as of last week.SoftFactory/2000 "gives you a windowing solution vs. a date expansion solution " said Peter Katz Micro Focus' Year 2000 Solution general manager. He believes it is too late for many organizations to use date expansion to solve their problems.

But windowing can shorten renovation time because it focuses on the program logic that evaluates date data rather than data itself according to Micro Focus. In this approach the two-digit year field is maintained but logic is added to a program that allows it to determine what century a given date is in.

Peter de Jager president of de Jager and Co. Ltd. and a Year 2000 consultant said date expansion is the ideal way to solve the Year 2000 problem but with time running out windowing has become the timely alternative. "As we get closer and closer to [2000] we're running out of options " de Jager said. He said a number of vendors in addition to Micro Focus are offering tools that support windowing.

Karen Moser an industry analyst with The Aberdeen Group added that date expansion is the "best possible option " but it takes more time and is more intrusive than windowing. "[Windowing] is a fast and effective means for getting the job done " she said. "There's a lot of interest in windowing."

The core component of SoftFactory/2000 is SmartFind/2000 an analysis tool that identifies lines of COBOL code that require remediation to become Year 2000-compliant. In addition to supporting logic-based windowing fixes the tool uses a rules-based detection methodology that distinguishes between date fields that need to be converted and those that are not critical to the functioning of a system. The objective is to pare down an organization's software inventory "to a small number of lines of code that need manual intervention " Katz said.

The elimination of false positives - dates mistakenly identified as critical - is an industry hot button Moser said. "They're cutting down on the amount of code that you have to change " she said.

SoftFactory/2000 also includes Revolve/2000 a tool for identifying and categorizing Year 2000 code in several languages and supporting multiple Year 2000 conversion methodology. Process/2000 is a planning and implementation guide for Year 2000 conversions. And Workbench/2000 is a development and testing environment for Year 2000-modified code.

However de Jager warned about the potential long-term costs of using the windowing approach. He said windowing makes assumptions such as that if a two-digit date is less than 30 it belongs in the 21st century and if the date is greater than 30 it belongs in the 20th century.

But as a program using windowing operates beyond the 30-year window - or whatever time span has been established - it will need to be fixed again.

de Jager said organizations generally believe they will not be using the code 30 years down the road an assumption he said is a troubling "echo" of the attitude that led to the present crisis.

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