Reuters: IT experts decidely not impressed with HealthCare.gov’s architecture

posted at 2:01 pm on October 6, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

The Obama administration put on a happy face this week in response to the almost universally unsuccessful grand opening of ObamaCare on Tuesday; hey, all of these errors just mean that so many people are interested in ObamaCare, our servers can’t even handle it all! Isn’t that awesome?

As I mentioned earlier this week, however, the apparent level of interest in ObamaCare is only a good thing for them if enough of the right people are interested in signing up for the program, and anyhow, it doesn’t sound like the IT community is all that convinced that the high volume of traffic is really the problem here. Reuters interviewed five IT experts about the architecture of HealthCare.gov, and it sounds like they’re leaning a lot more toward poor programming choices than they are too much traffic as the explanation for the anticlimactic commencement:

For instance, when a user tries to create an account on HealthCare.gov, which serves insurance exchanges in 36 states, it prompts the computer to load an unusually large amount of files and software, overwhelming the browser, experts said. …

“Adding capacity sounds great until you realize that if you didn’t design it right that won’t help,” said Bill Curtis, chief scientist at CAST, a software quality analysis firm, and director of the Consortium for IT Software Quality. “The architecture of the software may limit how much you can add on to it. I suspect they’ll have to reconfigure a lot of it.” …

One possible cause of the problems is that hitting “apply” on HealthCare.gov causes 92 separate files, plug-ins and other mammoth swarms of data to stream between the user’s computer and the servers powering the government website, said Matthew Hancock, an independent expert in website design. …

He said because so much traffic was going back and forth between the users’ computers and the server hosting the government website, it was as if the system was attacking itself. …

The government official blamed the glitch on massive traffic, but outside experts said it likely reflected programming choices as well.

And etcetera. The administration announced on Friday that they were taking portions of HealthCare.gov offline over the weekend for site maintenance, and it sounds like they have some serious redesign work to do — but the fact that this was a poorly executed rush job could not be more apparent.


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Ametuers…

OmahaConservative on October 6, 2013 at 2:03 PM

Why did Canada get the 1 plus billion contract?

Why were the IT jobs mostly H1 visas and even illegals?

obama hates you IT folks in the US. He keeps you unemployed and downtrodden on purpose.

He is your destroyer in chief.

Schadenfreude on October 6, 2013 at 2:07 PM

The Obama administration put on a happy face this week in response to the almost universally unsuccessful grand opening of ObamaCare on Tuesday …

Almost, Erika?

ShainS on October 6, 2013 at 2:07 PM

ObamaCare: designed to fail, and working as designed …

ShainS on October 6, 2013 at 2:09 PM

And the GOP was handing them a lifeline with a one year extension. Which they refused.

rbj on October 6, 2013 at 2:12 PM

I bet if this piece of garbage gets off the ground the support will be done in india too.

watertown on October 6, 2013 at 2:14 PM

And the GOP was handing them a lifeline with a one year extension. Which they refused.

rbj on October 6, 2013 at 2:12 PM

Republicans: Never, ever, interfere with the enemy when they are doing their best to shoot themselves in the foot.

RoadRunner on October 6, 2013 at 2:16 PM

If Obama and the Dims would have told the truth about ‘Ocare….
The an Atari64 could have been used as the server.

Electrongod on October 6, 2013 at 2:16 PM

Almost, Erika?

ShainS on October 6, 2013 at 2:07 PM

.
Yeah, Jack Lew, Treasury Secretary, was very positive in his assessment of the Ø-care roll-out fiasco…

ExpressoBold on October 6, 2013 at 2:18 PM

Almost, Erika?

ShainS on October 6, 2013 at 2:07 PM

You’re forgetting about gay Chad from Chattanooga. He was able to get past all the hurdles in just three hours and establish an account. He still doesn’t have a clue how much it is going to cost him but hey in a world of Error 404 victims, gay Chad is a winner or something.

Happy Nomad on October 6, 2013 at 2:19 PM

The government official blamed the glitch on massive traffic, but outside experts said it likely reflected programming choices as well.

That’s like placing the blame for the Titanic sinking solely on the iceberg.

Happy Nomad on October 6, 2013 at 2:23 PM

…they had three years and all the SmartPower to deliver a program… to work and be tested!… boy… can’t wait until they deliver medical care!

KOOLAID2 on October 6, 2013 at 2:26 PM

And the GOP was handing them a lifeline with a one year extension. Which they refused.

Hubris will bring this man down if Republicans keep up the pressure. A canny politician would have jumped on the first sign of trouble with the website and said “See, this is exactly the kind of disruption the Republicans wanted to cause by shutting down the government!” But no, President Prideful McSnootynose just could not keep himself from doing a sack dance and proclaiming on camera that the shutdown had no effect whatsoever on ObamaCare. That bit of gloating didn’t benefit him or his cause in any way, and it completely cost him the ability to turn this fustercluck back on the GOP–it was like giving up a 1st down due to an excessive celebration penalty after 4th-and-1. His narcissism is truly pathological and destructive.

Fabozz on October 6, 2013 at 2:27 PM

Why did Canada get the 1 plus billion contract?

Schadenfreude on October 6, 2013 at 2:07 PM


Sooooo….. it’s likely that visitors to healthcare.gov will see questions like:
“Do you wanna take tour or are you ready to sign up, eh?”
or
“Where do you have a bank account, hoser?”

ExpressoBold on October 6, 2013 at 2:30 PM

This is just what the public can see, behind the scenes it’s a clusterflock of unbelievable proportions.

Bishop on October 6, 2013 at 2:31 PM

There are 313 million Americans. We’re told that 40 million Americans were currently uninsured. Multitudes more are losing full-time status, employment, and employer-provided health insurance and are subject to the Obamacare dictates. How is it that they designed a system that can’t handle 8 million inquiries in a week?

They’re either lying about traffic causing the problem or incompetent, more likely both.

obladioblada on October 6, 2013 at 2:33 PM

but the fact that this was a poorly executed rush job could not be more apparent.

Not so sure I’d call a three year effort a ‘rush job’, but I see your point.

Scott P on October 6, 2013 at 2:34 PM

Bishop on October 6, 2013 at 2:31 PM

Indeed, the frontend is usually the easiest part to design and manage. It’s the backside, in which major headaches and errors are often hidden, that is the real source of trouble.

PackerBronco on October 6, 2013 at 2:34 PM

3 years is a rush job? More like going with incompetence.

kerrhome on October 6, 2013 at 2:35 PM

I think the timing helps the Republicans on the issue. When people ask why the Republicans are causing the shutdown (which I don’t think they are, I think Reid and Obama get the blame) people can say that the Republicans are trying to save the country from this mess called Obamacare. And that they are willing to compromise by at least delaying it one more year. The Republicans look like the smart ones.

Rose on October 6, 2013 at 2:35 PM

The government official blamed the glitch on massive traffic, but outside experts said it likely reflected programming choices as well.

That’s like placing the blame for the Titanic sinking solely on the iceberg.

Happy Nomad on October 6, 2013 at 2:23 PM

This is just what the public can see, behind the scenes it’s a clusterflock of unbelievable proportions.

Bishop on October 6, 2013 at 2:31 PM

My Titanic analogy holds. Like an iceberg, most of it is out of sight. This is just glitches with the enrollment process. We’ve seen nothing to suggest that these idiots can effectively administer Obamacare once they figure out how to allow people to enroll. What happens after that?

Happy Nomad on October 6, 2013 at 2:36 PM

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha……….

D-fusit on October 6, 2013 at 2:37 PM

The government spends piles of your money for crappy computing and crappy advertising in such a way that no private company (using the funds of voluntary investors who demand accountability) would try to do.

Tzetzes on October 6, 2013 at 2:38 PM

Come on now, it works great, just as designed. Apple is what really sucks.

Bmore on October 6, 2013 at 2:39 PM

but the fact that this was a poorly executed rush job could not be more apparent.

As was the law itself. Obamacare was passed by arcane and nefarious means in the middle of the night on CHRISTMAS EVE. This legislation was a cobbled together patchwork of over 2000 pages which no congressmen who would be voting on it had actually read. This legislation was so unpopular that even controlling the congress with a super majority the Democrats had to force the Blue Dogs and the Pro life Democrats to vote for it which ultimately made those two groups extinct by virtue of costing those congressmen their seats in the midterms. Pelosi actually said of this law “We’ll have to pass it to see what’s in it.”

Not content with those 200 plus pages, the legislation has been added to over the course of the last three years. It is now 10,535 pages, a byzantine leviathan of rules and regulations. I’m confident in assuming that no one has read it through to this day and it is still a cobbled together Frankenstein monster.Among these many additions to the legislation are items that have little to do with health care and more to do with government control, monitoring, and intrusion.

Is it surprising then that the government website that was intended to be the gateway through which Americans were forced in order to sign up for health care insurance is also a cobbled together, rushed, monstrosity that includes governmental control , monitoring through data mining, and intrusion?

thatsafactjack on October 6, 2013 at 2:41 PM

200.. 2000 plus pages ^^^

thatsafactjack on October 6, 2013 at 2:42 PM

Community organizers are lousy web designers.

TarheelBen on October 6, 2013 at 2:44 PM

“This is just glitches with the enrollment process”
Happy Nomad on October 6, 2013 at 2:36 PM

agreed…with this much trouble just signing up for health Insurance..
we can only imagine the rest of your iceberg when the public actually needs health CARE…

the sign up part (one would think)…is the easy part…

going2mars on October 6, 2013 at 2:45 PM

can you all imagine how pi$$ed Hitler would have been if someone told him…the trains wont run properly…..

trains=sign up process…

going2mars on October 6, 2013 at 2:48 PM

Any bet the designer of this ‘system’ was awarded the contract based on his/her campaign contribution to Obama?

GarandFan on October 6, 2013 at 2:50 PM

Thanks for calling Canadian Software Design and Beer Emporium. We’re, like, not available at the moment. We pocketed a sweet billion from the USA and we’re enjoying the fruited plains of our labors. They paid it all upfront, now how awesome is that? So, fry up some back bacon, kick back with a cold one and keep trying to log on. And good luck. Don’t bother leaving a message. We’re gonna be gone for a good while, eh.

mankai on October 6, 2013 at 2:52 PM

For a while, the story was unavailable on Reuters website. Traffic overload, or pressure from the White House?

My friendly IT expert says that what they’re describing is called “spaghetti code”. That’s a situation in which there are too many crosslinks between items (files and folders) and as such when one line of code is altered (or compromised), you have to check every other file to ensure that they’re not affected. Which apparently the people who designed this didn’t know; they just knew they wanted all sorts of cool “features”, and didn’t bother to stop to ask exactly how it was going to work. (Friendly IT guy states that there was either no crash-testing or very poor crash-testing prior to launch.)

Also, the problem with an answer in one “box” showing up in the one below it (where it’s the wrong data in the wrong field) is due to what he calls “address error”. Meaning, instead of checking Box A for a given item, the system is automatically copying Box A into Box B, then Box B into Box C, etc. This is another nasty side effect of excessive crosslinking, and it, too, should have been caught in testing.

The DDOS effect is typical of such lashups, according to him. As is the weird situation in which a folder that contains a file may also be inside the file itself. I thought this was not possible; he says it is, but it takes a really incompetent coder to screw things up that badly.

As he put it, this was the work of people who wanted something that fulfilled their “social” objectives, but who didn’t have any training in software writing or system architecture. In his words, “the kind who’ll spend months deciding what color the home page should be, but never get around to figuring out how what’s behind it is going to work.”

He further states that a lot of the people who crashed and burned in the dot-com crash had the same problem; “all flash and no bang”.

Synopsis; Expert says problem is internal, not due to traffic overload. But the more traffic they get, the worse it will be. And adding servers isn’t going to help.

His conclusion? Scrap it and start over again. And this time, get some actual experts to do the job.

clear ether

eon

eon on October 6, 2013 at 2:52 PM

Why did Canada get the 1 plus billion contract?
Schadenfreude on October 6, 2013 at 2:07 PM

We’re just saving you yanks from yourselves ;-)

We had the same problem in Ontario. They tried to computerize the healthcare system and the contract was given to cronies of the government and was a miserable failure. Now considering David Axelrod was a consultant to our current government for their first election win, it’s probably the same team … LOL.

gh on October 6, 2013 at 2:52 PM

Can’t wait till the new Hitler video comes out about Obamacare launch.

jeffinsjvca on October 6, 2013 at 2:54 PM

the sign up part (one would think)…is the easy part…

going2mars on October 6, 2013 at 2:45 PM

One would think! Every user to the system is headed the same way for at least the initial parts of the process. But what happens when fully operational actually means providing health care administration.

Remember the movie The Music Man? Professor Harold Hill plans to con the citizens of River City into paying him to create a boys’ marching band, including instruments, uniforms, and music instruction. Once he has collected the money and the instruments and uniforms have arrived, he will hop the next train out of town, leaving them without their money or a band.

Well I’ve got to wonder how quickly the lazy stupid President can get to Union Station from the White House.

Happy Nomad on October 6, 2013 at 3:03 PM

eon on October 6, 2013 at 2:52 PM

Thanks for re enforcing what I said from day one of launch. This thing is a total wreak and people want the very same people who put this together to run health care.

Plus, line by code revision most like will break something else somewhere. This is one big old ball of garbage, and is very very very time consuming.

Most companies then have to test the said software to get the bugs out… this takes YEARS for something this complex.

Sadly the public will be the testers, and this is our health that is going to suffer.

EAT IT LIBERALS MAY YOU SUFFER WHEN YOUR CARE IS DELAYED EVEN MORE DUE TO issues with the programs.

watertown on October 6, 2013 at 3:05 PM

Thanks for calling Canadian Software Design and Beer Emporium. We’re, like, not available at the moment. We pocketed a sweet billion from the USA and we’re enjoying the fruited plains of our labors….
mankai on October 6, 2013 at 2:52 PM

You just hit on the one silver lining of our currency being devalued to Turkish lira levels.

Maddie on October 6, 2013 at 3:06 PM

NEWS ITEM : “John McAfee On Obamacare: ‘What Idiot Set This Up?’ ‘This Is A Hacker’s Wet Dream!’”

FROM: All Hackers and Identity Thieves Throughout the World
TO: Everyone Who Manages to Sign Up for OBOZOCARE on a Government Web Site

Thank you, thank you, thank you !!!!

The information you placed on these UNSECURED, BADLY MANAGED JOKE SITES is appreciated. We promise to use this information to our maximum advantage in creating new accounts under your name and personal identifying information with every credit card and financial institution in the universe.

Please check your mailbox in the next couple of weeks for all the bills from our purchases.
Please be sure to pay on time and in full – DON’T BE A DEADBEAT !!!

Again, thanks for your generous support !!!!!

—Anonymous

TeaPartyNation on October 6, 2013 at 3:06 PM

Does someone out there believe anything that the obama administration says?

GaltBlvnAtty on October 6, 2013 at 3:07 PM

Does someone out there believe anything that the obama administration says?

GaltBlvnAtty on October 6, 2013 at 3:07 PM

They and the Jeantels/obamaphoneladies do.

Schadenfreude on October 6, 2013 at 3:09 PM

gh on October 6, 2013 at 2:52 PM

Howdy Canada!

We and you shouldn’t want what the others have :)

Schadenfreude on October 6, 2013 at 3:12 PM

Happy Nomad on October 6, 2013 at 3:03 PM

i loved that movie….and your correct again..
signing up the lil urchens was one thing…

making them a band…not so easy..

going2mars on October 6, 2013 at 3:13 PM

You mean to tell me that the government produced a turd and now think that rubbing compound will make it shine? Say it ain’t so.

I got a hunski that says King Barky the Incompetent throws money at this problem.

Remember when the smartest people in the room were giving an accomplished manager grief about “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”?

yeah Obama and his berry band of idiots don’t even know the knowns.

jukin3 on October 6, 2013 at 3:13 PM

The reason you can not openly debate the democrats is they lie constantly and the media not only doesn’t call them out on their lies but reports it as fact. We are at war with pure evil in this country and the time to stand and fight is now.

trs on October 6, 2013 at 3:14 PM

It’s what happens when your test work station is the greatest and latest and it is on a T1 data line. This sort of app should work on a “dial-up”, with text only, old “pentium” machine (the sort of terminal/connection that was typical at the “turn of the century”) — and should work briskly at that.

It’s how Drudge made his mark and continues to have the fastest loading, information dense front-page on the web.

KenInIL on October 6, 2013 at 3:14 PM

And the GOP was handing them a lifeline with a one year extension. Which they refused.

rbj on October 6, 2013 at 2:12 PM

I was a big advocate of letting this thing launch on Oct. 1 and be an epic fail, rather than giving them a year to try to fix things.

Once again, Obamas screwed himself with his narcissism and his pride.

MichaelGabriel on October 6, 2013 at 3:20 PM

jukin3 on October 6, 2013 at 3:13 PM
you’ll have to give tall odds on that hunski for that bet..
like i could bet you another hunski that these to sick puppies are part of berry’s band…
http://www.fox19.com/story/23618142/infant-raped-at-elyria-daycare-center?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

we really need to look at bringing back hanging in this country..

going2mars on October 6, 2013 at 3:20 PM

As with everything else under this fetid regime, the contracts for this project were not awarded on the basis of who could best do the work but to reward supporters and cronies.

Unfortunately the media is like every other enabler in Obama’s life, from his mother and grandparents to Franklin Davis to Columbia, Harvard, Ayers and the Foundations, Emil Jones, Jr., the Democratic Party, and the American electorate, telling him what a wonderful boy he is and never demanding anything of him, promoting him on to the next grand thing without his showing any abilities or accomplishments at all, and teaching him to blame his failures on others.

Adjoran on October 6, 2013 at 3:21 PM

been meaning to check, anyone see what the underlying webserver (iis/apache/ngix/litespeed/etc) was?
lot of the symptoms match older apache (2.1 to early 2.2 releases) visible issues.

dmacleo on October 6, 2013 at 3:29 PM

My husband and I just had the kitchen table talk about health care this morning. We can keep our same employer sponsored insurance but it is 10% more expensive and some of the benefits are reduced.
I count us lucky that we don’t have to go to the exchanges.
Isn’t that a pathetic way to look at your gov’t.

Babs on October 6, 2013 at 3:32 PM

the sign up part (one would think)…is the easy part…

going2mars on October 6, 2013 at 2:45 PM

I think this is where their socialist agenda screwed themselves big time.

It is insane to ask to create an account at the very start of the process. I bet 99% of the people going to the site just wanted to browse, see what the thing was about, explore options, think about it, then sign up later (if at all).

Instead, our socialist masters were so intent on data mining from the start, they created an entry bottleneck of impossible proportions.

MichaelGabriel on October 6, 2013 at 3:32 PM

Just take a look at the comments on the Healthcare. govFacebook page if you aren’t convinced that this pile of rancid goat dung is hopelessly unpopular.

rplat on October 6, 2013 at 3:35 PM

Adding capacity sounds great, until you realize that if you didn’t design it right, that won’t help

Age old conflict between architecture and bandwidth.

More bandwidth merely puts more users into the pipeline, they quickly find out they are able to encounter the design flaws more rapidly ~is all.

Easily should have been anticipated since POTUS and his crowd have only a modicum experience. Now, JugEars, go stomp your feet , pout in the corner, then blame the GOP and TEA party. That’ll solve it. perhaps work on healing the Earth and Seas, huh?

socalcon on October 6, 2013 at 3:40 PM

Another thing about being required to create an account from the start of the process:

I would guess that a lot of the people rushing to sign up for Obamacare were low info voters who thought they would find an easy path to more government free stuff.

These are not tech savvy people.

Most of us, when we go to a web site that is crap, we move on, no time to waste on garbage coding. I think a lot of the people trying to actually acquire Obamacare were willing to slog along on the site, trying to do what was impossible, further clogging the system.

MichaelGabriel on October 6, 2013 at 3:41 PM

Obamacare.gov got 8,000,000 visits over four days, their figure. Google gets 30,000,000 visits a day, Facebook 23,500,000 visits daily.

Viator on October 6, 2013 at 3:43 PM

One possible cause of the problems is that hitting “apply” on HealthCare.gov causes 92 separate files, plug-ins and other mammoth swarms of data to stream between the user’s computer and the servers powering the government website

WTF?

I know I’d be cool with the gubmint loading up my laptop with almost a hundred files of unknown purpose, but I’m not sure everyone would. /

Lost in Jersey on October 6, 2013 at 3:47 PM

Name the last large scale software project by the US government that connected multiple databases that succeeded. I can name a few of the failures, like the FBI twice failing in the ’90s and the DMA fiasco… but successes? And has the federal government ever tried to roll out any software project this large and broad in 3 years?

I called this a Death March when the planning first got started and when, about 8 months back, the news leaked that they had just gotten around to basic data standards, my feelings were confirmed. This is a Death March system project.

The government has never shown competence or capability in doing anything like this.

Ever.

And that is just scratching the surface of the true hideousness of this law, just a mere whiff of the horror that is Obamacare.

After this, if it is a true Death March, comes more money, trying to ‘fix’ the code… but the code, itself, the nuts and bolts under the shiny hood… is the problem. When I heard about a year ago that they were arguing about color schemes for the website, I knew something bad was up. When about 8 months ago I heard they hadn’t settled on the DATA STANDARDS to be used between systems… hey, that is a CORE FUNCTION of the entire thing. Putting the false front up and then trying to figure out if anything can fit behind it.

The Potemkin Village of software projects.

A Death March.

The only thing worse than this is the law itself.

ajacksonian on October 6, 2013 at 3:47 PM

This whole thing is puzzling. I’m pretty sure I read that they upgraded from FrontPage 98 to FrontPage 2000 before they started.

mankai on October 6, 2013 at 3:52 PM

And, one more thing about creating an account:

From what I’ve heard, people would get part way through the process, then have to start over.

If the software is as bad as it sounds, this probably caused people to unknowingly create multiple accounts. I suspect that, because of the flawed coding, there are actually more “ghost” accounts than real accounts, further confusing the software and creating a digital Gordian Knot.

And this is just the start of the process:

“Congratulations on signing up for Obamacare (all two of you), you may now proceed to actually receiving Obamacare.”

Good luck with that.

MichaelGabriel on October 6, 2013 at 3:53 PM

They’ve had 4 or 5 years to design and get this running. It look far worse than a rush job.

sadatoni on October 6, 2013 at 4:11 PM

Am I the only one that thinks NSA scandal when I read that “One possible cause of the problems is that hitting “apply” on HealthCare.gov causes 92 separate files, plug-ins and other mammoth swarms of data to stream between the user’s computer and the servers powering the government website, said Matthew Hancock, an independent expert in website design. …”

MississippiMom on October 6, 2013 at 4:20 PM

We’re told that 40 million Americans were currently uninsured. Multitudes more are losing full-time status, employment, and employer-provided health insurance and are subject to the Obamacare dictates. How is it that they designed a system that can’t handle 8 million inquiries in a week?

They’re either lying about traffic causing the problem or incompetent, more likely both.

obladioblada on October 6, 2013 at 2:33 PM

Exactly. Given 26 weeks (6 months) of sign up period, they need to SIGN UP about 1,000,000 people a week. And Krugman and the libs commenting on his article are calling the launch a big success. Are all libs incapable of basic math calculations?

talkingpoints on October 6, 2013 at 4:26 PM

Why did Canada get the 1 plus billion contract?

Why were the IT jobs mostly H1 visas and even illegals?

obama hates you IT folks in the US. He keeps you unemployed and downtrodden on purpose.

He is your destroyer in chief.

Schadenfreude on October 6, 2013 at 2:07 PM

Yeah, my best paying work was in Canada, not with US companies who are obsessed with Indian contractors.

Nutstuyu on October 6, 2013 at 4:34 PM

Sounds like the exchanges DOS’ed themselves.

HakerA on October 6, 2013 at 4:36 PM

So, fry up some back Canadian bacon, kick back with a cold one – Molson or LaBatts – and keep trying to log on. And good luck. Don’t bother leaving a message. We’re gonna be gone for a good while, eh.

mankai on October 6, 2013 at 2:52 PM

bw222 on October 6, 2013 at 4:44 PM

NSA and IRS can’t handle all that data unknowing citizens are giving to them…

albill on October 6, 2013 at 4:59 PM

We’re told that 40 million Americans were currently uninsured.

obladioblada

Correction…about 40 million PEOPLE are uninsured. Many of that 40 million are illegals. And of the 20 million or so Americans who were/are uninsured, only about half of them were falling through the cracks and were unable to get insured. In other words, we had to destroy the American health care system and screw over 303 million to accommodate 10 million.

xblade on October 6, 2013 at 5:01 PM

I teach this stuff (Information Systems) for a major university.

I was in industry for almost two decades before going into higher ed.

I was a member of the team who designed a combined healthcare system for the military (TRIMIS: Tri-Services Medical Information System) – as I recall, fewer than six people on our team.

We won the contract for the design, but there was another competition for the implementation. We lost due to another company lowballing the bid by $1M. A year later and $1M over budget, we were asked if we would consider taking the contract. Nope. Many people from what would have been the implementation team were gone, the design mothballed. Typical government efficiency.

Although that was a long time ago, the point is, I know what I am saying, and I am saying that ObummerCare was a disaster in the making and now a disaster made. Let Prezzy own it!

IrishEyes on October 6, 2013 at 5:04 PM

Although that was a long time ago, the point is, I know what I am saying, and I am saying that ObummerCare was a disaster in the making and now a disaster made. Let Prezzy own it!

IrishEyes on October 6, 2013 at 5:04 PM

Everything I’ve read from IT pros agrees. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for Dems to admit that it’s a failure and who will break ranks first. Max Baucus was smart enough to identify the train wreck and announce his retirement, who’s next?

obladioblada on October 6, 2013 at 5:20 PM

WHERE’S MY FREE HEALTHCARE?????

RovesChins on October 6, 2013 at 5:30 PM

Everything I’ve read from IT pros agrees. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for Dems to admit that it’s a failure and who will break ranks first. Max Baucus was smart enough to identify the train wreck and announce his retirement, who’s next?

obladioblada on October 6, 2013 at 5:20 PM

There is a mental fixedness for those involved in running a Death March IT system: they can’t admit to failure.

Slapping on ‘fixes’ that do not address the underlying structural problems nor the abysmal code that has gone into the system does not work. The reason you get to that code is that those who want it (the government here) keep on changing what they want as the code is being made. It is a classic scenario seen so often in the business world it isn’t funny, and that is why finding out that the actual data types and structures hadn’t been nailed down about 8 months ago is the signal for a Death March in progress.

There are 36 State Exchanges that are, in theory, supposed to work with the central Exchange, and yet the central Exchange couldn’t figure out what it wanted early on, which delays other systems who are waiting for those specs. If you are on the inside of a Death March, someone doing the actual work, that early signal about a year into the project was the signal to abandon ship. Thus the competent people left by the 18 month mark, and probably left skid marks on the way out. Those coming in needed to get up to speed on the existing work and THEN figure out how to implement the changes coming down the pipeline. Without pristine comments and modular code, without the original people there to interpret notes, and without a good, solid project management you are in a disaster. Just one of those needs to go wrong and the Death March is now in high gear as people try to fix code they don’t fully understand.

At the Project Manager/Program Manager level the problems that show up begin small but snowball to catastrophic and by two years you may be seeing your second wave people leave in disgust and a third wave need to be brought on, and now you are running out of time. That Mythical Man-Month business comes into play and that begins a larger set of problems as you try to overload a project with new people to meet work requirements and those extras have such poor understanding of the project and its design that their work tends to be sub-par and in need of re-work.

Then the project deadline looms.

The customer finally figures out that they forgot some crucial elements that now require entire database exchange implementation into what was thought to be ‘finished’ code… code that is by now sub-par.

And the customer who is willing to throw good money after bad continues the Death March past wave three.

Around and around it goes with new modifications, new problems, new errors showing up… and coders that have no real sense of the project, code modules (if you are lucky to be in a modular code project), and your second wave of PMs if not your third by this point.

The people going into a Death March knowing it is a Death March tend not to be the best people or even if they are good coders, they know that there is a diminishing set of returns for putting out good code because it will be stripped out with the next set of Request For Changes. Why do your best work when it has little possibility of being used? Morale plummets. Sloppy coding is the norm. And the entire thing continues to cascade out of control, costs balloon as all those extra people are now required to fix problems and implement changes… yes the US federal government has deep pockets… at some point the contractor just throws up their hands and quits the project with penalties knowing that it is worth paying those to get out of the deal. And if there wasn’t a good Contracting Officer on the government side and penalties aren’t up to snuff, then the contractor will weasel out or claim that the government fraudulently presented what they wanted as a ‘done deal’ and so changed the parameters of the deal that they moved into a different contract type without authorization.

Fun, fun, fun!

ajacksonian on October 6, 2013 at 5:46 PM

Republicans: Never, ever, interfere with the enemy when they are doing their best to shoot themselves in the foot.

RoadRunner on October 6, 2013 at 2:16 PM

Right, which is why the next move by the POTUS to blame the malfunctions on the shutdown will be so aggravating. We had a chance to let it burn with our hands clean.

limecat on October 6, 2013 at 5:52 PM

Fun, fun, fun!

ajacksonian on October 6, 2013 at 5:46 PM

Wonderful explanation, thanks!

obladioblada on October 6, 2013 at 6:40 PM

Don’t you just love how Obama outsourced it to a Canadian outfit? Another job Americans just don’t want (well, we don’t want what it’s selling, but you get my point).

AUINSC on October 6, 2013 at 7:08 PM

Republicans: Never, ever, interfere with the enemy when they are doing their best to shoot themselves in the foot.

RoadRunner on October 6, 2013 at 2:16 PM

Right, which is why the next move by the POTUS to blame the malfunctions on the shutdown will be so aggravating. We had a chance to let it burn with our hands clean.

limecat on October 6, 2013 at 5:52 PM

Actually, that will very likely backfire on The One.

If he had accepted the deal to grant the individuals the same one-year deferment that the unions, companies, etc. got, there would have been more than enough time to do a beta test, figure out what was wrong (i.e., the system architecture was a total FUBAR), and call in someone to do a new setup from scratch. They could have had a rollout next fall, it probably would have worked, and few people would have been the wiser other than IT people and serious computer geeks.

Instead, The One decided to go into “I Won” mode, and demand all his wishes be granted. Unfortunately for him, his biggest wish couldn’t be, because his signature legislation’s computer infrastructure crashed on takeoff. (BTW, my IT friend says that Scott Adams should sue them for doing an unlicensed Dilbert skit.)

There really isn’t any way even the MSM can blame this on anyone but those who were running it. And their attempts to cast blame elsewhere, while simultaneously covering up their low response numbers, just makes it worse.

The progressives wanted this. Now they have it.

And own it.

clear ether

eon

eon on October 6, 2013 at 7:29 PM

(Friendly IT guy states that there was either no crash-testing or very poor crash-testing prior to launch.)

I’ll take, “There was no crash-testing done,” eon! :)

His conclusion? Scrap it and start over again. And this time, get some actual experts to do the job.

eon on October 6, 2013 at 2:52 PM

Sounds like a good idea to me, but considering how hubristic & incompetent President Choom and his minions are, I don’t see it happening anytime soon!

Anti-Control on October 6, 2013 at 8:09 PM

The federal government had experience setting up the FAFSA online over the last ten years. Today it is fairly simple and requires a parent and a student to enter their income from your tax forms, and a few other details, not all easy to come up with, but you don’t spend more than 30 minutes on it, especially if you have done it before. Then it summarizes what you put in and you can correct it, then you submit it; then you get back the answer on what your so called Need is for college expenses and loans.

Why didn’t they use this format that they already know how to use? I know the answer has to be over reach. The FAFSA has to decide on your NEED for college and takes into account your number of children and even the state you live in.

Keep it simple stupid.

Now, you do know that the FEDS failed in their attempt to take over the student loan industry. Huge failures the first year, lost loans, lost payments, lost lost lost! THEN, they hired Sallie Mae, a company which had laid off 100 workers in the Scranton PA area when the takeover happened. They hired them to administer their Federal Deparment of Education loans. It also looks like they stopped their student loan buying spree, where they were buying up loans to make the interest, and left them with Sallie Mae, like, as a favor or something.

The federal government cannot figure anything out that requires any sophisticated work, any work, employees that actually work, and do the work, and is not a make work welfare program that nobody actually expects results from. If you had a nationwide search for people to do the work, they would not all come from Washington D.C., not in a million years.

Fleuries on October 6, 2013 at 8:42 PM

ajacksonian on October 6, 2013 at 5:46 PM

Guys, this is a perfect description of a death march IT project! I was a Tech Lead on consulting projects for 13 years. (And have worked in corporate for many years after.)

Most of my projects were successful, a few were unsuccessful, but only one was a death march. I was brought in as a subcontractor under Microsoft and realized the project was sunk on the first day. I’m sure many will be willing to jump over Microsoft, but it wasn’t them… it was the managers who kept involving themselves in architecture decisions they knew nothing of. I could write a book on everything they did wrong. And in the end it crashed and burned in flames with firings, and a $3 million cost overrun!!!

But one thing in ajacksonian’s description really stands out, and is a HUGE indicator…

Great application developers can smell a death march a mile away, and will abandon a doomed project early, like rats jumping ship until only mediocre developers are left to slog through a project they don’t fully understand. The mindset at that point is if money is being thrown away, it might as well be thrown in our direction.

This is a cluster of epic proportions. App devs, stay away and get out the popcorn… it’ll be a heck of a show when it’s over…

dominigan on October 6, 2013 at 9:08 PM

Synopsis; Expert says problem is internal, not due to traffic overload. But the more traffic they get, the worse it will be. And adding servers isn’t going to help.

His conclusion? Scrap it and start over again. And this time, get some actual experts to do the job.

eon on October 6, 2013 at 2:52 PM

The problem is internal??? Oh, yeah. The business logic behind this is a quantum mess. Just take a moment to consider all of the possible permutations of the folks who need to purchase insurance through these exchanges. It’s mind boggling really. Then consider that the rules will be always changing. Then consider that the federal government is having to run many of the state exchanges. Then consider all of the disparate systems that have to actually “talk” to each other.

You know that phrase, “It isn’t rocket science”? Rocket science depends on underlying laws of physics that are pretty stable. The underlying business logic of the Obamacare mess will NEVER be stable. Will some percentage of folks be able to sign up and get coverage? Sure. But it will be half past never before the system isn’t producing large numbers of bad results.

climbnjump on October 6, 2013 at 10:31 PM

Well at least it’s secure.

Kenosha Kid on October 6, 2013 at 11:29 PM

Still can’t access the site. Six days later.

Anyone found a legit enrollee yet?

The Schaef on October 7, 2013 at 9:01 AM

Well at least it’s secure.

Kenosha Kid on October 6, 2013 at 11:29 PM

Still can’t access the site. Six days later.

Anyone found a legit enrollee yet?

The Schaef on October 7, 2013 at 9:01 AM

Well, it doesn’t get much more secure than that. And your chances of finding a genuine enrollee are about as good as your chances of finding an iceberg in the Sahara.

clear ether

eon

eon on October 7, 2013 at 10:47 AM

I am betting implementation of these sites did not take into account the abilities of the designers but instaed took into account how islamic, gay, left wing, and dark of skin the designers were.

GardenGnome on October 7, 2013 at 12:42 PM

Almost, Erika?

ShainS on October 6, 2013 at 2:07 PM

I’ve heard a couple of states managed to get their crap together to build functioning state-level exchange sites. My state, Oregon is almost one of the them — the site is full open only to insurance producers right now, while regular users are able to see what the options are but not apply.

Sockpuppet Politic on October 7, 2013 at 3:13 PM