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August 26, 1997


D&B Satyam fixes Y2K for Pacific Exchange

The Madras-based Dun and Bradstreet Satyam Software has completed and delivered a unique Year 2000 compliance project for the US-based Pacific Exchange, the third most active US stock exchange.

The uniqueness of the $1-million project stems from the fact that the Y2K bug was scheduled to have hit PCX much earlier than January 1, 2000 - the day of reckoning for most firms affected by the problem.

PCX, which trades over 2,600 stocks, bonds and other securities issued by publicly-traded companies, was marked for early visitation by the Y2K bug as it also trades options on over 550 stocks. (An stock option is a security that gives its owner the right to buy or sell a specified quantity of a stock at a specified price on a specified date, known as the 'expiration date').

PCX is the world's third largest stock options exchange, with its San Francisco options floor averaging over 133,000 contracts per day in 1996.

The fact that some of PCX's options have a three-year forecasting period meant that it would encounter the Y2K problem in 1997 - when it would have to start handling options with expiration dates in 2000 and beyond.

That is, unless the exchange takes appropriate action, its computers would be unable to tell if '00' is greater or less than '97' and potentially cause serious errors in various critical calculations.

PCX realised that its data processing systems for options trading had to undergo urgent software repairs and early last year the exchange began to search for a Y2K software specialist to partner it in the effort. "We bagged the contract after going through various stages of the competitive bidding process versus several international players," said a senior DBSS official.

Upon bagging the contract the company put together a dedicated team of professionals for PCX, the official said.

A major portion of the work - spread over six months - was carried out at DBSS' 'offshore' software development facility in Madras. The offshore team used high-speed telecom lines to log on to PCX's computer systems after exchange hours - an activity which was aided by the 12-hour time difference between the two countries. A few DBSS professionals were also stationed onsite at PCX's premises in San Francisco.

Another challenging aspect to the project was the fact that PCX's systems were not restricted to within the exchange but linked to the systems of outside agencies - such as brokers, banks, and other institutions - whose systems might not be Y2K complaint. To prevent the entry of any invalid data from outside, the DBSS team created software 'bridges' to verify the 'cleanliness' of all incoming data.

Having successfully delivered a solution for PCX's options trading systems, DBSS is now working towards making the exchange's equity trading activities Y2K compliant.

DBSS, a 76:24 joint venture between the US-based Cognizant Corp (formerly part of Dun & Bradstreet) and the Hyderabad-based Satyam Computer Services, operates in the US, Canada, Europe and India. The company has emerged as a leading provider of Y2K services and has bagged contracts from various international firms including several D&B group companies.

Its technologies and tools for tackling the problem are being marketed worldwide by the US-based SoftWorks Inc.

DBSS employs over 800 software professionals, most of whom are located at the development facilities in Madras and Calcutta. The company, which was set up in 1994, had revenues of Rs 470.3 million in 1996-97.

- Compiled from the Indian media

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