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June 9, 1997updated 04 Sep 2016 12:58am

SPAIN SLOWLY COMES ALIVE TO THE PROBLEMS OF FIXING YEAR 2000

By CBR Staff Writer

Taking care of the Year 2000 is one problem towards which Spain would be ill-advised to adopt a manana philosophy, a traditionally applied trait redolent of Franco’s era and a cliche that modern Spain is anxious to shake off, as it seeks to play an active part in European politics at the dawn of the 21st century. Yet Spain must begin to act quickly; the country came out poorly in a survey of European businessmen conducted early this year, which claimed that only 56% of Spanish companies were aware of the computing dangers held by the millennium and only 39.7% had begun to take any kind of action to prepare their systems for the consequences. However, some months later, as the clock continues to tick away, many firms are now at least at the initial analysis stage, as they evaluate how many lines of code actually need to be attended to. This keener awareness was borne out at a recent Year 2000 seminar organized by the IIR (Institute for International Research), at which various users reported on action taken thus far. Jesus Casteleiro, director of development for Sevillana de Electricidad, said that the utility had spent more than 500 hours checking some 9.5 million lines of code written in Cobol, a language commonly found in large and medium- sized companies in Spain, to discover that only 44 applications were affected. For its part, the airline Iberia, which works with several IBM-9672 and Unisys 2200 hosts with processing capacities of 187 MIPs, AS/400 and Unix RS/6000 departmental equipment, plus its personal computer networks and reservations and cargo systems, reported that upon first analysis 180 applications were sensitive to calculation faults.

By Simon Davies

Meanwhile, the financial sector, one of the most prolific users of advanced information systems in Spain, clearly believes that forewarned is forearmed; savings bank Caixa de Catalunya removed a lot of Year 2000 syndrome pressure when it completed a massive migration from Unisys equipment to IBM’s 3090 environment in June 1994. Thus, having decided that 1997 was the year to solve the problem once and for all, with the help of Coritel SL, the computing services unit of Andersen Consulting Co, the bank recently confirmed to Computerworld Espana that of 12 million lines of code, only 0.22% of these may create difficulties. Fellow savings bank Caja de Madrid launched its Year 2000 strategy in mid-1996; Jose Carrillo, director of technological innovation, explained that of 35 million lines of code, less than 3% will require correcting, since we already have many applications that take account of 4 digits, including our entire line of credit and loan products, while almost a third of our programs have been developed using Pacbase, CGI Informatique SA’s tool for developing client-server applications, so they include the new specifications. As for Spain’s public administration, local, regional and national government organs have been extremely reticent about any concerted plans of action that may have been hatched. Dolores Hernandez, head of technology at the Public Administration Ministry, told the IIR seminar that more than 90% of its management software is written in Cobol, Natural and C. A first inspection has suggested that some 4,000 systems will be susceptible to calculation faults. On the supposition that these systems contain an average of 400 programs each, with some 50 lines of code per program, Hernandez anticipates that the minimum cost of correcting applications will be $110m. Ignacio Gonzalez, a sub-director at the National Tax Office, confidently told Computerworld Espana that the office would be Year 2000- compliant by the end of 1998. We have planned well ahead, beginning to convert to four-figure year dates from 1982, when we migrated from the old DL1 database to DB2. We reckon that only 5% of our 80 million lines of code will need to be corrected, Gonzalez declared. He went on to bemoan the general tendency of consultants not to release the necessary tools without offering the services of their technicians, which then s

to some astronomical prices. Our project team is analysing corrective tools, so that we will be able to understand and use them without needing to contract technicians, Gonzalez said. Overall, I do not feel that the public administration is faced by such a dramatic problem, since many of the large centers, such as Social Security for example, have committed to considerable investments in information technology in recent years, and have renewed code at the same time, he concluded.

Partial paralysis

The Association of Consultancy Companies, however, does not share Gonzalez’s optimism and has been warning the Spanish government for a while of the possibility of the partial paralysis of some information systems, unless it speeds up action to attend to the Year 2000 problem and to accommodate a single currency. The association recently met with Rodrigo Rato, the second vice- president and finance minister, to persuade him that public administration management centers should form a co-ordinated front to tackle these problems. Year 2000 corrective action should be begun by January 1988 at the very latest, it urged. The AEC, bending over backwards to offer the government an overall strategy that included the analysis and solution of these problems, proposed that the latter should form an executive office to assist public bodies with implementing the necessary modifications. Consultants foresee, however, a possible shortfall in the number of specialists as the millennium draws nearer. According to Coritel manager Ricardo Estevez, there are some 15,000 software development specialists in Spain, but between 40,000 and 80,000 will be required to correct an estimated 30 billion lines of code, with a high demand for programmers with a knowledge of languages that have not been used for years.

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