advertising information

CNN.com
 MAIN PAGE
 WORLD
 ASIANOW
 U.S.
 LOCAL
 POLITICS
 WEATHER
 BUSINESS
 SPORTS
 TECHNOLOGY
   computing
   personal technology
   space
 NATURE
 ENTERTAINMENT
 BOOKS
 TRAVEL
 FOOD
 HEALTH
 STYLE
 IN-DEPTH

 custom news
 Headline News brief
 daily almanac
 CNN networks
 CNN programs
 on-air transcripts
 news quiz

  CNN WEB SITES:
CNN Websites
 TIME INC. SITES:
 MORE SERVICES:
 video on demand
 video archive
 audio on demand
 news email services
 free email accounts
 desktop headlines
 pointcast
 pagenet

 DISCUSSION:
 message boards
 chat
 feedback

 SITE GUIDES:
 help
 contents
 search

 FASTER ACCESS:
 europe
 japan

 WEB SERVICES:
COMPUTING

Opinion: Dare to disconnect with a graceful new Y2K fix

February 4, 1999
Web posted at: 3:42 p.m. EST (2042 GMT)

by Winn Schwartau

From...
Network World Fusion

(IDG) -- The anticipated real-world problems associated with Y2K are a lot more complex than a single company collapsing for lack of Y2K compliance. Even if Bank A is fully Y2K-compliant, its operations do not exist in isolation. Bank A must interoperate with Bank B in Hong Kong, Bank C in London and so on; such is the nature of the global economy.
INTERACTIVE:

Are the computers you use at home Y2K compliant?

Yes No
View Results

What about at work?

Yes No
View Results

The real problem with Y2K is the Cascade Effect - one company's Y2K problems flowing downstream into other companies' nets.

I have met a couple of executives from major financial and industrial firms who have seriously considered the Cascade Effect and how to deal with it. But in general, the prevailing attitude seems to be, "We'll do everything we can reasonably do, and hopefully, have less of a mess to clean up than if we did nothing." This approach is litigation waiting to happen.

I suggest that there is a much more sane and common-sense approach than waiting for disaster to arrive: I advocate Graceful Degradation when it comes to Y2K.

Twenty or so years ago, we probably could have given up our primitive fax machines and word processors with negligible impact on our businesses. In fact, many of us could have easily reverted to pencil-and-paper alternatives to technology. That is a Graceful Degradation from one business process to another.

Today, business is conducted on a network of networks. The Cascade Effect occurs when failure hits one network and the errors compound as they travel from network to network. The AT&T outages are but a few examples of the Cascade Effect that have occurred over the past decade. Now with Y2K, we face the ultimate network-of-networks failure.

Graceful Degradation does not have to mean resorting to yellow pads and No. 2 pencils. Today, it could mean something as simple - and survivable - as isolating networks from one another and seeing what happens.

MORE COMPUTING INTELLIGENCE
IDG.net   IDG.net home page
  Network World Fusion home page
 Free registration required to access Network World
  Free Network World Fusion newsletters
  Get Media Grok and The Industry Standard Intelligencer delivered for free
 Reviews & in-depth info at IDG.net
    IDG.net's bridges & routers page
  IDG.net's hubs & switches page
    IDG.net's network operating systems page
  IDG.net's network management software page
  IDG.net's personal news page
  Questions about computers? Let IDG.net's editors help you
  Search IDG.net in 12 languages
  Subscribe to IDG.net's free daily newsletter for network experts
 News Radio
 * Fusion audio primers
 * Computerworld Minute
   

I suggest that we redefine network survivability in the face of Y2K to mean, "a network that can correctly operate in isolation from the networks with which it normally interacts."

First, you have to identify the departmental networks that absolutely have to be part of your corporate network. For example, if you disconnect the human resources or finance department networks from the corporate network, how much disruption will occur to your business processes?

This is Graceful Degradation; mitigating the possibility of far greater damage by disconnecting networks that could be subject to the Cascade Effect.

Politically, disconnecting your networks from one another may be unpopular, but it certainly provides a solution for surviving Y2K. To determine whether your organization is a candidate for Graceful Degradation, answer the following questions:

  • Are you absolutely positive that none of your business partners or networked associates can trigger a downstream Y2K failure in your systems?

  • Are your absolutely certain that your network is Y2K-compliant and cannot accidentally infect those of other organizations?

  • Have you tried to disconnect your extranets in order to measure the impact on your business?

  • Is the impact of disconnecting those networks in a controlled manner any worse or better than if they failed without your management?

  • Have you looked into how to conduct business with your partners without being networked to them?

  • Within your company, have you tried to isolate departmental networks from one another to measure the ramifications on internal business processes?

  • Have you developed a business policy to deal with reduced network functionality for a prolonged period of time?

  • Do you have a corporate plan that parallels your disaster recovery and operations contingency plan?

I don't know much about Y2K coding, but I do know that if we don't test and mitigate the ramifications of the Cascade Effect now, things will be a heck of a lot worse than if we do. Graceful Degradation is one approach.

Schwartau is president of InfoWar.Com and chief operating officer of The Security Experts, an information security consulting firm in Seminole, Fla.

In-Depth special:
Special:
Message Board:
Related stories:
Latest Headlines

Today on CNN

Related IDG.net stories:

Note: Pages will open in a new browser window Related sites:

External sites are not
endorsed by CNN Interactive.

SEARCH CNN.com
Enter keyword(s)   go    help

  
 

Back to the top
© 2000 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.