This week, the U.S. Senate unanimous passed a bill to make Daylight Saving Time permanent for most of the United States. While this must still make it through the House and President Biden, it is very likely to pass thoses steps. There still may be some social discussions about very late sunrise times, especially for those with children who will be waiting for school buses in the dark during the winter months. However, the bigger impact may need to be planned for by the tech industry.
Many of us remember the scurry and panic over the anticipated Y2K bug. For those who do not, it was the unknown effects on computer systems and programs as we transitioned from 1999 to 2000 because of a common use of 2 digit years instead of 4 digit in many places. As many computer systems use a localized configuration setting to translate UTC strings into a local time, there may be a need for tech professionals to ensure that their systems are set to adapt to this change, if adopted.
Why do we even have DST in the first place? The practice began during World War I, and was originally implemented by Germany to support conservation of energy in the factories producing materials for the war. The United States, who had only just implemented time zones in the 1880’s adopted the practice soon after. After the war, the management of DST was turned over to the states until 1966 when it was again put into practice federally as a response to transportation safety issues.
In the world of computers, the issue of changing clocks has transformed into an automated practice that is managed at the server level based on a time zone setting in the operating system. The question will be how much time and effort will be needed to review all systems to ensure that a significant change can be safely adapted to all of the critical systems that run environments such as healthcare, finance and military defense. On the bright side, should a law establishing permanent Daylight Saving Time be passed there would be a window of opportunity for all responsible for data center operations or software maintenance to verify that the change can be safely made. Similarly, as the time zone change only occurs twice a year at an instant, the change could be implemented on servers at any time prior to the actual moment of implementation.
Should passage become inevitable, we as computer operations professionals should begin creating test plans to ensure that our systems can be updated efficiently and that all of our time sensitive application receive sufficient regression testing to ensure we do not experience any critical failures at the time when the clocks would normally have changed.
Concurrently, we need to advise our lawmakers of the amount of effort needed for implementation to ensure that an arbitrary date is chosen which does not allow time for that testing.