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Time to deal with daylight saving

Daylight-saving time starts two weeks early this year. To prepare, data centers managers must patch their systems – or risk facing "multiple little aggravations."

If data centers want to spring ahead this year, they need to download patches to make sure they're up to date with a longer period of daylight saving.

In accordance with the Energy Policy Act of 2005, daylight saving will now start on the second Sunday in March (instead of the first Sunday in April) and end on the first Sunday in November (instead of the last Sunday in October). If data center managers don't adjust their systems to account for the change, trouble could loom.

Some vendor daylight savings patch pages
IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems, Red Hat, Microsoft, Cisco

"It will likely result in multiple little aggravations," said John Venator, president and CEO of the Computing Technology Industry Association, in an email. "At risk are all time and calendar features on corporate email, PDAs, voicemail and database applications. Some of the things that could be impacted include calendar/scheduling applications; date/time calculations (current and historical); transaction logging; and tariff billing applications. At least at the start of daylight-saving time, some people will likely be an hour early for appointments, meetings and conference calls."

Venator said that when the change was made, officials claimed it would save the energy equivalent of 100,000 barrels of oil every day. There was some hubbub about it in the computing industry, but the issue faded away and has come to the forefront again as the deadline looms.

Major operating system and software vendors have set up specific Web pages for users to download patches to fix the problem. Cameron Haight, a research vice president at Gartner, said data center managers would do themselves a favor by making sure they're up to date now to prevent panic from setting in days before the deadline. The research firm issued a statement this week advising IT shops to start working on the problem now.

"One of the impetuses was our initial set of call-outs found very little in this area," Haight said. "Our intention was to bring this issue to attention."

It's not a problem for Act Inc., according to Steve Kayser, director of data management at the Iowa City, Iowa-based testing company. The version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux it has on some servers already had the fix installed. Some of the data center's older IBM AIX servers needed a modification to an environmental file to handle the change, which Kayser said IBM provided. The patch for its newer IBM AIX servers was already installed in the operating system. Finally, the company installed a patch provided by Microsoft for its Windows servers.

Haight added that this interruption is much milder than the Y2K problem, where programmers would often have to patch applications by manually searching for, and changing, date and time fields.

One thing system administrators will need to monitor is time-related applications between the old and new daylight saving start and end dates. If a patch is put in place after an appointment is made, the appointment might not be updated properly.

But all in all, Kayser is unconcerned. "We've pointed out that we've seen daylight-saving time changes before, so we know it's not the end of the world," he said.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Mark Fontecchio, News Writer, and check out the Blog.

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