Isuzu gets jump on Y2K threat

COMPANY: Isuzu Motors America
PURPOSE: Identify trouble spots within more than 5 million lines of Cobol code.

APPLICATION: Isuzu Year 2000 Project -- Flash back to 1995. A new owner of an Isuzu motor vehicle comes in to check on a minor warranty item, and the auto dealer punches some numbers into the system. Lo and behold, to the chagrin of both dealer and owner, the system reports the vehicle "is 96 years past warranty." There follows, of course, some dealer chagrin, and probably a few curses directed toward the computer.

As most of the IT world now knows, this encounter signaled the appearance of the year 2000 bug, an event occurring with increasing frequency within today's mature computer population, and probably the most pressing existing system problem every encountered. This episode marked the beginning of a sizable effort on Isuzu Motors America's part to root out two-digit calendar references poised to explode come January 1, 2000.

What did Isuzu do? The MIS group turned to consultancy Information Technology Resources Inc., Buena Park, Calif., to handle the problem.

To immediately face the issue at hand, window logic was used. After addressing this particular failure, and while reviewing a variety of automated PC-based tools, Information Technology Resources settled upon a course of conversion based on Computers Associates CA-FIX/2000 tool.

At this point in public Y2K awareness, Jay Ramakrishnan, senior manager, Information Technology Resources, agrees with others who now see that a 100% automated solution will not arrive in time to help. "At first I thought I might find a 100% solution," said Ramakrishnan. "Later I came to the conclusion that 90% was sufficient -- as long as [the tool] can tell me where I have to do the manual work."

The conversion strategy employed goes beyond simple date line identification, said Jack Walters, Y2K senior consultant, Information Technology Resources.

"The software can help not only to pick up the date line in the program, but it can help programmers to appreciate how to use related fields. It finds not just the date field but the inherited field as well."

Said Ramakrishnan, "The nice thing about this approach is that it only fixes the 'at-risk' statements. There are other methods in which every data and every program needs to be corrected. This program leaves some things alone."

With previous manual methods, indications were that 4.5% of date lines were impacted, said Ramakrishnan. With use of the CA tool, the highlighted code represented 0.14% of the total line count. "If you don't have a smart tool, you could be fixing 4.5% of code," he said. The larger effort to fix these bugs, naturally, could push a project well beyond the year 2000 deadline.

Ramakrishnan noted that the cost for repair per line on his project was running at "about $1.20 per line" and coming downward, at last count.

An important aspect of the Isuzu America effort was to identify useful strategies for Y2K conversion for the parent Isuzu Motors Co. in Japan, said Masami Kikuchi, assistant vice president for managing information systems at Cerritos, Calif.-based Isuzu Motors America. "Previously we had not been able to find good quality software [for automated conversion]. Everything we looked at required almost 50% [intervention] by hand."

Speed is important, said Kikuchi. This is because few operational systems ever remain in a static state. "I believe the system is always moving -- being modified. This kind of fixing should be done in a short time.

"It looks like everything is fine and going well. Absolutely on schedule," added Isuzu's Kikuchi, who added that he was recommending the Computer Associates product for adoption by the corporate parent.

-- Jack Vaughan


JAY RAMAKRISHNAN, senior manager, Information Technology Resources

MASAMI KIKUCHI, assistant vice president for managing information systems at Cerritos, Calif.-based Isuzu Motors America

JACK WALTERS, Y2K senior consultant, Information Technology Resources

Beat industry standard on per-line code conversion cost.

Computer Associate's CA-FIX/2000

Mainframe/IBM CICS, IMS, DB2 and VSAM. Computer Associate's CA-FIX/2000

About the Author

Jack Vaughan is former Editor-at-Large at Application Development Trends magazine.