Y2K Safe Questions

Y2K Safe Questions

Many people pursuing the solutions to the Government's Year 2000 date problems desire compliance assurances from the products used in those software systems. This assurance is generally taking the form of a legalistic statement of compliance. The trouble with this approach is two-fold: (1) what is meant by compliance varies and/or is so all encompassing that no vendor can agree to the definition, and (2) winning in the courts will not help us if and when the systems fail.

An alternative way of understanding what problems are within the components of these systems is available. The question of whether a product is "Y2K" safe or not is broken into four dimensions:
  1. Does the product correctly handle leap-years (all 3 rules)?
  1. How does the product store dates internally, and for what period of time? Is it with an offset from a base year? What is the increment of time counted (seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, ...)? How big is the offset (8-bit, 16-bit, 32-bit, 64-bit, ...)?

  2. Does the product support 2 and 4 digit years for input and output? How are dates used internally? How many year digits are used for internal date values?

  3. Does the product contain any logic that assigns/uses "special values" of date fields (99, 98, 00, 9/9/99, 1/1/11, 19, 20, ...)?

By examining behaviors of a product along these dimensions we can determine whether a product is "safe" to use for any particular situation and then take and/or request corrections to specific behaviors, rather than a blanket statement of "make it compliant" or "make it work in all situations".

The attached questionnaire is a sample set of questions we are using to discuss date issues with COTS and GOTS suppliers. So far our discussions have been well received and the information useful.

The following questions should be used to gain an understanding of the COTS and/or GOTS components of systems.

For the product:
  1. Are there any date fields used by the product?
  2. How does the product calculate leap years?
  3. Are dates stored internally as a specific "date" data type?
  4. Are two-digit years allowed/used for input, internal processing, data storage, and/or output?
  5. Are any special values for date fields used?
  6. Does the product directly import or export date data to any other application and/or system?
  7. Does the product rely on the date for licensing?

  8. When will solutions for any identified date-related problems be made available?

For more information, please contact John R. Roberts via email at jrrobrts@mitre.org.

This page is provided and maintained by Janet Fredrickson
Last modified: Monday, 09-Sep-96 15:31:57 EDT