The changeover to daylight-saving time (DST) in the U.S. arrived without major troubles for IT operations, as many staffers stayed up late last night to carefully monitor the time change in corporate data centers around the nation. According to reports from various companies, glitches were few — and minor.
“We have uncovered a minor issue related to an internal log viewing application using an embedded [Sun Microsystems] JRE (Java Runtime Environment) version, which was not detected during the planning and testing,” said Michael Leonhardt, an infrastructure architect for San Francisco-based building services and materials company, Building Materials Holding. “Other than that, everything went smoothly.”
IT workers at the company will continue to monitor systems through the rest of the weekend to be sure no other problems pop up, he said.
“If the situation does pass without major issues, the success should be wholly attributed to our IT teams,” Leonhardt said. “Despite the lack of research and planning by the U.S. government in concert with the delays of obtaining patches from vendors, we are cautiously optimistic and have not yet seen any major internal issues arise due to the time change.”
The efforts to get IT systems into compliance for the earlier DST change this year were significant, Leonhardt said, and certainly took their toll. “It is unfortunate [that ] IT was required to stop work on business initiatives and projects to divert the necessary resources to deal with this reckless change. The costs to businesses associated with handling this change will probably never be recovered.”
Online 24-hour auction house uBid.com, which relies on correct time stamps for its thousands of daily online auctions and buy-it-now sales, experienced no IT-related problems this morning.
“We made it just fine through the daylight-saving time transition and the world hasn’t ended,” Sally Dahl, vice-president of customer and seller operations for Chicago-based uBid.com, said in an e-mail. “At this point, we have no reports of any system or application issues.”
Dahl’s company attributed much of the success of its DST preparations to the upfront patching and maintenance work done by IT services company, Rimini Street Inc., which provides support for applications from Siebel Systems and Oracle’s PeopleSoft and JD Edwards divisions. Rimini is based in Las Vegas.
Seth Ravin, president and CEO of Rimini Street, said in an e-mail early today that his company’s “support lines have been quiet so far with no reported DST issues from our clients.
“It is still early, but so far, we are having the ‘nonevent’ we worked with our clients to achieve,” he said. “We will continue standing by to assist clients as necessary with our 24×7 support, but expect a quiet Sunday on the emergency support lines.”
Over the last few months, hardware and software vendors have been releasing a myriad of patches and software updates to head off potential DST problems. The time change, which used to take place on the first weekend in April, began at 2 a.m. today — early this year because of changes in federal law aimed at energy savings.
Steve Cooper, CIO for the Washington-based American Red Cross, said in an e-mail that his agency’s detailed DST preparations over the last several months paid off by preventing all but two minor problems.
“All six of the organization’s core mission critical systems and 50 related applications are in good stead,” Cooper said. “The team’s primary effort, focusing on mission-critical assets paid off. There are two minor issues that are being attended to — a lab database was not fully configured and remediation is under way and a password-protected backup site is still being checked. The team will address noncritical applications during the next few days to ensure there are no issues.
“We can report success across our environment as we spring forward,” Cooper said. “It was a tremendous team effort and everyone on the ground feels great.”
Cameron Haight, an analyst with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner, said that by the end of last week, DST preparations for many businesses underwent 11th-hour detours because time was running out to get needed software updates completed. “In several cases, there were last-minute changes of direction,” Haight said, including giving up on attempts to get software patched in time and moving instead to manual time changes for calendar-based software and other time-reliant programs.
With one Microsoft patch for its Exchange server application, a patch had to be applied, then a second had to be run to “re-base” or correct meeting calendar entries for the one-hour time change. “Some clients have had less than stellar success with that” when meeting times weren’t automatically adjusted as promised and the calendars required manual corrections to be entered, Haight said.
“This lends new meaning to the term ‘March Madness,’” he said.
One problem with the whole process, Haight said, is that federal lawmakers didn’t fully know the consequences of the DST change when it was approved and signed into law in 2005. Even now, he said, U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who co-sponsored the measure, has information on his Web site that makes it sound like the change would be a minor issue for computer users. “The site says to ‘point your browser to the Microsoft patch and download it,’” which is entirely too simplistic for corporate data centers, Haight said. “It’s clear they don’t understand all the cascading effects, especially in the business world.”
Things got even more complicated in recent weeks when IT vendors released corrected patches to replace earlier DST-related updates. “Some Microsoft Knowledge Base articles designed to step people through Outlook or Exchange updates have had many revisions because of updates to tools,” he said. “The guidelines have been changing too, adding to the confusion. It’s been affecting many other technology providers, too.”
Markey’s Web site advises constituents that “your computer’s internal clock will also need to be adjusted because most have been programmed for older DST dates. Fixing this minor glitch is as easy as downloading an automatic fix. Point your browsers to the sight that corresponds with your operating system and quickly download the appropriate software patches.” The site lists vendor patches only from Microsoft and Apple.
A Markey spokesman said Friday that the congressman does understand that the DST changes were “not a simple change” for IT departments, but added that “the energy-saving benefits are worth the changes.”
An analysis of the DST changes by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) found that by 2020, the amendment would cumulatively save consumers $4.4 billion in energy costs, while helping to avoid the construction of three medium-sized, coal-fired, 330-megawatt electric power plants, according to Markey’s office.
The DST changes will also mean that Americans will save an estimated 279 billion cubic feet of natural gas and cut nearly 10.8 million metric tons of carbon emissions that many scientists say contribute to global warming, according to the study. The energy savings occur because people use less electricity at night if it’s still light outside, according to Markey’s office.