Software giant assembles global 'Command, Control'

If you thought you were liable for a lot of software, just imagine working at a company like Oracle.

The $9 billion software giant's database, tools, and applications are used in mission-critical situations worldwide. But it's not just those applications that are on the line; Oracle's reputation and financial stability hinge on a smooth operation during the year-2000 changeover. As you might expect, Oracle is not taking the task lightly.

The company will have a total of 23,000 people on "red alert," including people in support, development (for patches), and consulting during the December 31, 1999 to January 4, 2000 rollover period, says Brad Smith, the global program manager of the year-2000 internal readiness program at Oracle, in Belmont, California.

There will be four "command and control" centres in Australia, Tokyo, the United Kingdom, and the Belmont headquarters. In addition to an Internet support centre, these command centres will act as a "lightning rod to mitigate risks," Smith says.

Oracle altered its usual support schedule so that customers will have 24-hour support, no matter what time zone they're in.

"It's not as serious as people are making [it] out to be, but we are preparing for substantial workflow growth," says Randy Baker, executive vice president of support services at Oracle.

"We expect the lion's share of the issues will be due to failed implementations -- people did the date change wrong or their customisation is not tested -- so we're developing trouble-shooting steps and technical bulletins for our support Web site [that will be updated continuously]," Baker says.

But the company isn't just standing ready during that time. It will run extensive tests in advance so that by 9 a.m. on New Year's Eve, it should have a good assessment of the situation and will give advance notice to other geographies, and development teams will start writing fixes, Smith says.

Despite urging its customers to upgrade, Oracle still expects that about 10 percent of its installed base, or about 700 customers, are at risk.

Communication is also critical to a successful rollover. Go to http://www.oracle.com/year2000/2000/white2000.pdf for a look at Oracle's plans.

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