Vendors dismiss year 2000 fears

Contrary to recent claims made by the Gartner Group, Australia's switching heavyweights have assured users that most of their switching product lines are year 2000-compliant. Those products that are not will comply with year 2000 standards by year's end.

According to a Gartner Group report currently under development, most network switching infrastructures could be crippled by the year 2000 problem because the switching devices are operating with software that is not date-compliant.

Geoff Johnson, Gartner Group program director, said the study firmly displaces the myth that the year 2000 problem is not just a software issue. It is also a "firmware problem", meaning that any piece of hardware with software operating over the top of it could fail, he said.

Johnson stressed that, if they haven't already done so, users should seek to "mandate" a year 2000 clause in their purchasing contracts with networking vendors to ensure that both their hardware and software investments will be protected in just over two years time.

Not surprisingly, vendors including Cisco, Bay Networks, Cabletron, 3Com, Fore Systems and Xylan have all been quick to tell users that they are taking the year 2000-compliance issue seriously and have catered for it with software upgrades and stringent certification tests.

Cisco, for instance, is adamant all its switches are immune to the millennium bug. Anne Strachan, the national marketing manager for Cisco Australia, claimed the Cisco IS operating system has never used abbreviated dates in its software revisions.

And just for good measure, Cisco's managing director Gary Jackson pulled no punches, saying: "We have stated that it [year 2000-compliance] is not an issue for us."

The only Cisco product that isn't year 2000-compliant yet, according to Strachan, is the CiscoView network management software. Cisco expects this to be rectified with the release of version 2 of the software in October this year.

The US Government passed an interim ruling regarding the problem on 1 January this year as part of its efforts to define what year-2000 compliance means. With the final ruling expected soon, 3Com has notified its users that it will have achieved full compliance across all its products by 1 January 1998. Bay also confirmed its entire switching range was year 2000-compliant.

Xylan switching advocates should rest easy in the knowledge that all Xylan-produced equipment and products implemented with release 3.0 software (available since February 1997) will not experience any problems, according to David Ramsay, Xylan Australia's managing director.

Ramsay said products such as the OmniSwitch, OmniCell, PizzaSwitch and Xylan's NMS all include release 3.0 software. Existing Xylan switches which have not already been upgraded to version 3.0 software can be upgraded for about $1290 per switch.

In May, Cabletron confirmed it will be mandatory for all third party suppliers of firmware to provide proof of compliance for the year 2000. And, as of last month, all new Cabletron product plans will require a certification of compliance milestone, according to officials.

Cabletron will also be updating its Web site in September this year to cater for user enquiries. The Web site ( will contain a full list of existing Cabletron switches complete with individual certification status.

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