With many information technology staffs not just shorthanded but working more and more feverishly on year 2000 troubles, one of the last things they want to do is put everything down and spend hours running voluminous database queries. Yet their end users still need that data.
This week, Brio Technology Inc. in Palo Alto, California, introduced a data warehousing program designed to help users with that trouble as well as to assist them in making sure their operational data is safe from year 2000 harm.
"Given the fact we have a limited IT staff, we don't have enough money or bodies to throw at every problem," said John McGinn, IT services administrator at the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
Brio's program, BI2000, doesn't fix applications themselves, but rather helps users move system data into a data mart or data warehouse. During the move, BI2000 looks for and fixes year 2000 inconsistencies in the data. Otherwise, it's no different from any other data movement tool. Once the data is there, more users can access it and do their own analyses instead of passing their report requests along to overburdened IT staffers.
Metz Baking Co., a Deerfield, Illinois-based firm with 18 bakeries in 16 Midwestern states, implemented that approach recently by taking all the data generated from its IBM AS/400-based mainframes and running it into a data warehouse that measures about 40G bytes.
This approach "puts data in the hands of the users, gets the IT shop out of the middle and allows us to concentrate our entire staff's efforts on mak-ing sure our software [applications are] year 2000-compliant," said Larry Hames (firstname.lastname@example.org), Metz's senior vice president of IT.
"This approach is distinct in that it isn't as concerned with the applications but helps protect the data itself," said Wayne Eckerson, an analyst at the Data Warehousing Institute in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
Brio will partner with IBM in this program, which should provide it with plenty of customers, Eckerson said, because "IBM platforms support more non-Y2K-compliant reporting applications than any others."
Karen Tripp, applications development supervisor at Plymouth Rock Assurance Corp. in Boston, said Brio's warehousing approach has not only given more users in her company access to the data they need, but also let her organization replace "at least 20 old, difficult-to-maintain, C-based programs" originally written to build databases. Now the insurance company uses simple Visual Basic scripts for that purpose.
McGinn said the Oregon Agriculture Department took this approach because his small IT staff was getting swamped for data-report requests as year 2000 projects loomed more ominously.