U.S. Firm Tackles Russian Y2K Woes

Relativity Technologies, a two-year-old North Carolina-based developer of legacy code transformation solutions, has been chosen to help the Russian government fix year 2000 problems in systems running the country's railroads, airlines and other major industries.

The deal between Relativity Technologies and the Laboratory of New Information Technologies (LANIT), a privately held Russian holding company, will give the Russian government the ability to re-engineer its legacy systems and repair year 2000 problems in the process, officials said today.

Relativity Technologies' RescueWare solution is aimed at solving the problem on mostly obsolete, Russian-built mini-computers running a variety of computer languages developed in Russia as well as languages such as Fortran, Clarion and Algol, said Vivek Wadhwa, chief executive officer of Relativity Technologies.

There is a "good-news-bad-news" scenario in fixing Russia's year 2000 problem, Wadhwa said at a news conference here today announcing the agreement between his company and LANIT.

"The good news is the society is much less dependent on technology than American society," Wadhwa said. "On the other hand the Russian government is highly automated and they are running their programs on platforms that are no longer in production."

Russia has very few mainframes, which have been the source of a large portion of the problem in the United States and other developed countries, Wadhwa said.

"The problem is they have a lot of legacy code which can't be remediated because they run it on platforms that no one is supporting," Wadhwa said. RescueWare is designed to re-engineer the code so that the systems will run on the standard platforms Java and C++.

Andrey Terekhov, general director of LANIT-Terkom, a subsidiary of the LANIT holding company, said awareness of the year 2000 problem is growing in Russia, where two-thirds of the companies are expected to suffer at least one mission-critical failure caused by a year 2000 computer problem, according to research firm GartnerGroup Inc.

"As usual our country was a little bit late," Terekhov said. "It was rather difficult for (government leaders) to understand the best way to approach the problem."

The government's first decree recognizing the problem and acknowledging that it needs to be fixed was issued in May by the Russian prime minister. The deputy chairman of the State Committee of the Russian Federation for Communications and Information signed a second decree in December certifying LANIT and its subsidiaries, all based in Russia, as centers for solving the year 2000 problem.

The centers will be responsible for testing systems application software and computer hardware, said Terekhov, who is also chairman of the software engineering department at the University of St. Petersburg. In addition to issuing the decrees, the Russian government has estimated the cost of fixing its problems at US$500 million.

Terekhov, who is a member of the advisory board to the deputy prime minister, already has "handshake" agreements with several Russian industries to deploy RescueWare. The Russian airline Aeroflot and the natural gas conglomerate Gazprom are among the organizations that have expressed interest in using LANIT to solve their year 2000 problems.

Relativity Technologies has about 50 Russians, all with doctorate degrees in mathematics, comprising its development team in St. Petersburg, Wadhwa said. The team has worked on legacy re-engineering solutions since about 1991, when Wadhwa was the chief technology officer of Seer Inc.

He maintained the team despite three years of failure in developing the solution. Eventually, the group began cracking the code transformation problem, and later added the year 2000 tool fixes, Wadhwa said.

The deal between Relativity Technologies and LANIT was signed as a ruble transaction, but is expected to be worth millions of dollars, Wadhwa said. It is difficult to estimate how much money Relativity Technologies will make because "we collect after they collect," Wadhwa said.

However, Relativity Technologies retains the licenses for software that the Russian mathematicians develop, which Wadhwa said will be worth tens of millions of dollars and "far beyond the scale we could do here toward the maturation of our technology."

LANIT already has signed cooperation agreements with the governments of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, Terekhov said, and the RescueWare solution will be marketed beyond Russia to other countries that once belonged to the Soviet Union as well as lesser developed Asian countries.

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