Larry Ellison isn't worried that the year 2000 computer problem will cause turmoil, really he isn't, he insisted on Tuesday. But, just in case, the Oracle chief executive officer and chairman has most of his engineering and support staffs on call for the end of this year and the beginning of next.
Ellison didn't offer his own plans for New Year's Day, but he said at the Oracle Applications User Group (OAUG) conference that he will be "stunned" if the date rollover causes major computer trouble, adding, "I think it's going to be one huge anticlimax."
Like others in the computer industry, Ellison also isn't taking any chances.
His thoughts on the year 2000 issue were intended to alleviate concerns voiced by a member of the audience during a question-and-answer session with Ellison following a brief keynote talk he gave on Tuesday. The audience member said that Oracle assured customers that versions 10.7 and 11 of its Business Applications software suites were year 2000 compliant, but users have had to deal with repeated patches as potential code problems have been found.
He then asked what Oracle intends to do on January 1 when undetected problems pop up.
The year 2000 problem is occurring because most older software code was written with a two-digit date field, so computers might interpret the "00" in 2000 as "1900" and fail to make correct calculations. Year 2000 problems have cropped up over the last couple of years in particular, and have been more widely reported in recent months, but have been relatively minor and often found in the course of testing. Some predict problems related to the date field in software code will worsen as of January 1.
Ellison isn't among that group.
"We're down to catching really subtle issues with Y2K,'' he said regarding the software "fixes" Oracle continues to offer customers related to the year 2000.
Because the problems are linked to the date change, however, much more is made of them than otherwise would be, Ellison said.
His biggest concern is customised code, written by customers using Oracle applications, he said. Oracle has no control over customised code and so won't be able to step in with a patch for any problems that arise. The catch, though, will be that the customers might not realise it's their own code at fault.
"There will be a problem with the code and the customer won't know who's fault it is," Ellison said, adding, "we've done everything humanly possible to prepare."