ObamaKare, Round II

Poster sighted at the White House

Poster sighted at the White House

The government claims that its portal into ObamaKare will be up and running today and that this time it has it right. A man who describes himself as “very, very supportive of the Healthcare Act” but who also designs the software that keeps Netflix and other high-volume users up and running isn’t so sure: 

Washington Post: Jyoti Bansal is the founder of AppDynamics, an application management company that, among other things “makes sure essential software applications of customers such as Netflix stay up and running.” I gave him a call to talk about some of the technological challenges that have plagued HealthCare.Gov during its first week online, what’s causing those problems, and what he would change if put in charge of the project.

JB: On day one, if you’re having high volume, you could add more servers. Hardware is the easy part. Let’s say you add servers, and hardware isn’t a problem but you still can’t keep up on scalability, then that’s indicative of something wrong in the software. It’s like you have four lanes in the highway converging into three lanes of a bottleneck. If your software isn’t designed to reach all the lanes, that will happen.

SK: The Obama administration has said that all these problems are happening because of overwhelming traffic. How good of an explanation is that?

JB: That seems like not a very good excuse to me. In sites like these there’s a very standard approach to capacity planning. You start with some basic math. Like, in this case, you look at all the federal states and how many uninsured people they have. Out of those you think, maybe 10 percent would log in in the first day. But you model for the worst case, and that’s how you come up with your peak of how many people could try to do the same thing at the same time.

Before you launch you run a lot of load testing with twice the load of the peak , so you can go through and remove glitches. I’m a very very big supporter of the health-care act, but I don’t buy the argument that the load was too unexpected.


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15 responses to “ObamaKare, Round II

  1. What seems odd to me as an IT person is that the government didn’t develop these sites, they hired outside vendors to do it. While the government could easily have screwed it up this badly there are lots of companies out there with experience developing large scale web based applications. Surely whoever they hired would have put some thought into capacity planning and testing.

  2. Should be interesting to see which donor was “awarded” the contract.
    Not all donors are created equal…..

  3. InfoDiva

    Chris, you conveniently leave out the rest of Jyoti Bansal’s assessment: “This is very new. It will take time to get to that level. [comparing it to Netflix]. It could be there in six months, but I wouldn’t expect it to get there in the first step.”

    So nothing really unusual about glitches like this initially. In fact, they are to be expected.

    • I refer you to my earlier post regarding Myspace’s testing of a new volume of users before they instituted it. Obama is shutting the government rather than accede to a one year delay in implementation of the individual mandate (he’s already broken his own law by issuing that same extension to employers) because of the “fierce moral urgency” of starting ObamaKare now, even though it isn’t ready and won’t be for months, even years. This for a system that has been the sole goal of his presidency since he took office five years ago. The man is demonstrating, daily, that he’s as incompetent in domestic matters as he is international.

  4. Apparently it’s not just poor capacity planning, it’s sloppy design too. From todays WSJ:


    Information technology experts who examined the healthcare.gov website at the request of The Wall Street Journal said the site appeared to be built on a sloppy software foundation. Such a hastily constructed website may not have been able to withstand the online demand last week, they said.

    Engineers at Web-hosting company Media Temple Inc. found a glut of stray software code that served no purpose they could identify. They also said basic Web-efficiency techniques weren’t used, such as saving parts of the website that change infrequently so they can be loaded more quickly. Those factors clog the website’s plumbing, Media Temple said.

  5. Somewhat off topic (the connecting thread being government incompetence), Venezuela seems to circling the drain more rapidly recently, and it the US’s fault that they can’t keep the lights on:


    • Don’t forget their toilet paper shortage, also the fault of the United States and greedy merchants.

      • Fox

        The Soviets managed quite well well with Pravda so why don’t we ship the Venezuelans the entire press run of the New York Times and the Washington Post? We could even have it pre-torn into suitably sized pieces.

  6. Al Dente

    Is it possible the IT contract went to a minority-owned group of union crooks in Chicago?

    • Errr, ya think? I’d feel so very comfortable entering all my biographics into that site. NOT

      We should have all his voters load their lives up first, wait a year and see how many of them have their identities stolen and bank accounts drained. Dullard Bill and FF, step up to the plate in a demonstration of complete fealty to the One!

  7. Anonymous

    A man who describes himself as “very, very supportive of the Healthcare Act” …..
    in other words: “Don’t audit me bro’ “