Mobil's Y2K revamp runs out of gas

A Y2K-driven software upgrade at a key Mobil Oil distribution centre collapsed the same day it was installed in late May, temporarily halting the fulfilment of deliveries.

The outage, according to a ComputerWorld source, left the petroleum goods manufacturer unable to process or distribute Australia-wide orders for at least a week.

The source alleged Mobil Oil embarked on a year 2000 software upgrade at its Yarraville, Victoria, distribution and packaging plant in the last week of May. The centre, which disperses packaged lubricant products to all Australian states and petroleum goods throughout Victoria, was left isolated after the warehouse systems upgrade turned sour.

Samantha Potts, Mobil Oil's external relations manager, confirmed that a "Y2K-driven" systems revamp had failed at the company's Yarraville plant almost a month ago, but denied the outage had resulted in a week-long business freeze.

"The production process was only slowed down for two days. The day we put it in, we started developing problems. Overnight, we decided to pull it out again. The second day we pulled it out and by the third day we were back to the old software. It was definitely a two-day issue, and deliveries were still going out the gate," Potts claimed.

"There were some operational issues with the new software. So for two days, we were running it and we found that it was impacting the production process. As it stands now, we've reverted to the old system. There were some functionality issues with the new software, but thatÕs being fixed and will be installed by the end of the month."

The project was a "complete systems rebuild", according to Potts, which saw the company's IT operations move across from a VAX platform to Windows NT 4.0.

The software involved in Mobil Oil's recent downtime was a Sybase database and Cognos' PowerHouse configuration applicationThe company again tried to install the software last weekend. This time, it was successfully deployed and is now "working fine", Potts said.

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