Still No Major Y2K Bugs; Monday Is Next Big Test

WASHINGTON (01/01/2000) - With the U.S. and the world escaping any major Y2K problems on the rollover date, federal officials began to relax and some companies shut down their Y2K command centers.

Attention now turns to the start of the work week, Monday, when systems are put back into full use.

"If we get through Monday and Tuesday as well as we have gotten through this weekend, then I think that we will feel very comfortable," said White House Y2K coordinator John Koskinen today.

There were no reports today of any failures of critical infrastructure systems in the U.S. But some "minor" problems were reported in rail systems and nuclear power plants, federal officials said.

Some companies were already scaling back, or dismantling, their Y2K monitoring efforts.

Home Federal Bank of Tennessee, for example, had six IT workers in its computer room at midnight and then brought in 70 employees early this morning to check ATMs and to make sure the systems at its 20 branches would be ready for business on Monday.

But its Y2K command center had already been dismantled by early afternoon, said Dennis Reedy, vice president of information systems at the Knoxville-based bank.

Equilon LLC and Motiva LLC, a pair of joint ventures set up by Shell Oil Co. and Texaco Inc. to handle their U.S. petroleum refining and marketing operations, also quickly scaled back a shared Y2K command center after seeing that refineries and pipelines were running normally. The command center opened early yesterday morning with 40 employees, but a spokeswoman said only a skeleton crew was left this afternoon.

Koskinen and other federal officials working at the White House's special Y2K center were clearly in good spirits, despite a lack of sleep. However, they warned that unaddressed glitches in critical systems could accumulate and gradually harm key services, especially in developing nations.

"The way degradations of systems will occur in some developing nations, if it does, is because they will lose control of their ability to monitor and manage their systems," Koskinen said. That problem is less likely to happen in the U.S. because of the vigilance of industry groups and companies in catching and repairing problems as they develop, he said.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission reported that five nuclear power plants suffered Y2K glitches in systems used in support functions, not power generation, and that the glitches were corrected almost immediately, Koskinen said.

Amtrak, the nation's passenger rail service, experienced a problem at a control center when a system wouldn't retain train symbols as the train progressed along its route. However, the symbols were inserted manually and the date was reset, Koskinen said.

But these glitches aside, the atmosphere at the White House's Y2K command center -- and others like it -- was generally relaxed on the first day of the New Year.

In Connecticut, state CIO Rock Regan was on the lookout for problems all day and night, catching only a few hours sleep in his office.

But nothing happened.

"I don't think I watched so much TV in all my life," Regan said.

At the state's operation center in Hartford, the midnight hour passed without any special celebration over the lack of problems. "I would say it was pretty professional here," Regan said. "I don't think anybody thought it was over."

Over the weekend, Connecticut IT workers -- like their counterparts everywhere -- will be checking systems and preparing for Monday.

For the U.S. Department of Justice, a key concern was the continued operation of the police records database, used by law enforcement agencies throughout the U.S. The National Crime Information Center 2000, a nearly $200 million system completed last July that provides access to some 40 million police records, rolled over without incident, said Linda Burek, the deputy CIO at the Justice Department.

DOJ information technology employees were on the job today, testing systems.

But for the Justice Department's year 2000 operations staff that's been watching for Y2K problems, "People are just sort of sitting here reading the paper and nothing is happening," Burek said.

Reports from groups that were monitoring Internet performance last night showed good availability and response times at most sites. Keynote Systems Inc., a San Mateo, Calif.-based company that measures Web site performance said there were spikes of activity around the century rollover that aren't normally experienced, but Web page download delays were insignificant.

Telco systems held up well, too.

Sprint Corp. spokesperson Russ Robinson said early this morning that all of Sprint's systems were functioning normally. He did note, however, there were some frustrated cell phone users in New York who couldn't get cell connections to make calls, which he said is no surprise given the size of the crowd in Times Square and the desire to call friends and wish them Happy New Year.

As retail stores opened across the country on New Year's Day, Sears Roebuck and Co. in Chicago reported that it was business as usual. Spokesperson Peggy Palter said the company had people in key stores doing final tests on systems last night but that apparently any Y2K bugs had already been purged from the point-of-sale systems.

Palter also said there had been no telecom disruptions affecting Sears call centers, a position echoed by American Express spokesperson Gail Wasserman in New York.

Internet hosting company Digex Inc. in Beltsville, Md., reported at 3:30 a.m.

EST this morning that it had yet to encounter any Y2K-related issue on the many sites it hosts, including those of Ford Motor Co. and Nike Retail Services, Inc.

Nancy Saigen, group president of sales and delivery at Digex, said the company had 170 people on duty New Year's Eve at its Beltsville headquarters and 100 staffers standing watch in its Cupertino, Calif., facility. "We even decided to switch over to generators just to be sure," she said, "but there was really no need in retrospect."

(Computerworld staff reports were also included in this article.)

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