Daylight-saving time kicks off two weeks early this year, leaving technology professionals scrambling to avoid it wreaking havoc on IT systems.
The 2005 act amended the Uniform Time Act of 1966, which simplified the official pattern of daylight-saving time, changing the start and end dates to extend it by four weeks.
Starting in 2007, clocks will continue to be set ahead one hour, but on the second Sunday of March (instead of the first Sunday in April). Clocks will continue to be set back one hour, but the period will end on the first Sunday in November (rather than the last Sunday of October).
Daylight-saving time was extended by four weeks in an effort to further conserve energy, as an extended period of daylight, as there is less need for electric lights during the "daytime." However, technologists across the country are now fretting over potential IT glitches of Y2K-like proportions.
However, while most organizations spend big money avoiding Y2K snafus, and began their planning years in advance, much less emphasis has been placed on the new daylight-saving time schedule.
"Ive seeing it the gamut… Some people are really paying attention to technical issues, but I also had a customer not worried at all, saying they werent going to do anything special," said Sheila Baker, vice-president of marketing for KACE, an IT management vendor.
IT professionals have been sent scrambling to quickly and reliably determine which of their systems will require daylight-saving time updates and patches, at times, with little help from their manufacturers. (Microsoft, for example, did not publicly release a patch for their OSes with expired support schedules—Windows 2000 and older systems.)
"I was talking to one enterprise customer recently, and although they were running Server 2003 and XP, he had to manually update the point-of-sale data for 460 computers. He needed to get access to all of these boxes, and it was a huge security and compliance issue. He was going to run a script, but if it didnt work on one or two units, their accounting would be wrong," said Andi Mann, a senior analyst with Enterprise Management Associates.
Like Y2K, the change in daylight-saving time poses a risk in particular for the unknown or forgotten pieces of an enterprise system.
"The other part of the problem is when you dont know where your terminals are; older ones may be a factory floor in a distribution network, or if your laptop is not frequently connected to the network. Doing it manually, there will certainly be pieces missed," said Mann.
An IT management vendor, KACE, is offering a solution that allows companies to quickly determine which of their systems—from anything in the Windows family, Mac OS 10 and higher, Red Hat and Linux to Solaris—will require updates, and then automatically apply updates via its software distribution, patching and configuration management capabilities.
"Our solution is all about automating IT processes. We have a specialized product not just for DST, but it turns out it can also be used to see which patches they will need and how they will affect their systems before they install them," said Rob Meinhardt, CEO and co-founder of KACE.
Harried U.S. IT professionals hurrying to apply patches can take comfort in one thing—at least they dont work on systems in Brazil. Brazil, which adopted daylight-saving time for the first time in 1931, never settled on a single yearly schedule. Instead, it is voted on yearly by the government.