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.