Many have speculated that networking equipment, which measures the time it takes for other devices to respond to messages, will fail due to Year 2000. Most network devices don’t calculate the time using a date, rather they simply count the time since a packet was sent or received; these devices are Y2K compliant.
Some network devices do use a date, but they usually don’t use the date in a way that would cause a Y2K error. There are two reasons that this isn’t the case:
- Most network hardware has a clock, but it is calculating the time from a start date, which may be 1970 or any other date since then. The device counts the seconds since the beginning of its calendar. Most of these clocks are good for 100 years, so a device with a 1970 start-date actually has a 2070 problem. In those cases where an embedded real-time clock (RTC) is present in the device, the two-digit date in the RTC is encapsulated by the system software, so that years after the start-date (i.e., 00-97 for a device manufactured in 1996) are interpreted as 2000 through 2097.
- The programmable memory in the device stores the time, which can be changed by a manager, so a Y2K-compliant system upgrade can eliminate a date-related problem. For example, Cisco Systems’ EtherSwitch WAN switch is not aware of the leap day in 2000, but can be programmed to include Feb. 29, 2000. Likewise, the device allows for entry of four-digit dates, even though it is set to two digits by default. In devices that use a network time server, the correct date is loaded into memory at boot time, so as long as the network time is correct, the device will operate correctly.
Of course, there are problems related to date errors, but they are largely confined to reporting and security. The application software or system programming downloaded to a network device can, in almost every instance of Y2K-noncompliance we found, be upgraded to function normally during 2000. Discontinued products are the only area where network device manufacturers may leave a customer hanging.
Don’t assume your network hardware is compliant. Do check with the manufacturer to see if you need an upgrade. Some are making upgrading non-complaint hardware very easy. For instance, Bay Networks is offering trade-in rebates on non-compliant devices that range from $10 a port to $500 a port on high-end products.
Here’s a list of the Y2K compliance information available from networking hardware companies:
- Cisco Systems
- Bay Networks
- 3Com Corp.
- Intel Corp.
- Asante Technologies
- Ascend Communications
- SMC Networks
- Addtron Technology
- Hewlett-Packard Network Products
- Netopia Corp.
- Compatible Systems Corp.