Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Pat Romanski, Jason Bloomberg, Derek Weeks, Elizabeth White, Anders Wallgren

Related Topics: Microservices Expo, Java IoT, Agile Computing, Cloud Security, Government Cloud

Microservices Expo: Article

Why Obama Administration Should Have Paid More Attention to Load Testing

What needs to be understood here is that it’s important to test early and often

October 1, 2013, was the most anticipated date for the Obama administration since his re-election. It was to be the day every American would have access to health care on one centralized website. However, according to at least one report only six people enrolled in Obamacare on the first day. Then shortly after, the entire website crashed along with its infrastructure.

The massive crash happened because within the first 10 days of launch HealthCare.gov had over 14.6 million unique views. Something the Obama administration was not prepared for, nor the testers.

The website should have been able to handle tens of thousands of people at once, but in a trial test before the launch a mere 500 users caused the website to crash. In testimony before U.S. Congress, the contractors responsible for HealthCare.gov said they didn't have enough time to fully test the website. The inability to properly load test the website well before the launch date of October 1st led to one of the worst federal website debacles of all time.

What Went Wrong
The HealthCare.gov website was designed to provide Americans with a simple solution as a one-stop-shop for health care insurance, but as we all know it wasn't that simple.

The site was built by 55 contractors and is considered one of the most complex software projects ever undertaken for the federal government, which might be where their problems all started.

According to Louis Woodhill, a contributor to Forbes magazine, the Obamacare website is comparable to the Soviet Union. "In their effort to build an IT system to implement Obamacare, the U.S Department of Health and Human Services was trying to do the same thing as the USSR's Gosplan agency: elicit coordinated, purposeful action from a collection of entities that don't know each other, don't trust each other, have conflicting objectives, and face diverging incentives."

Mixing contractors wasn't their only issue, the Obama administration continued to make a series of rookie mistakes that led to the demise of the website.

Incorrectly Assessing User Behavior. First, the administrators in charge of the website decided in late September to exclude the feature that would let people shop for health plans before registering for an online account. This lead to a bottleneck in the process because more people than expected had to go through the registration process before they could even browse through plans.

Broken Systems Integration. Second, the registration process was flawed. The consumer was supposed to enter basic account information, a security question and so on, but the communication between the systems responsible for storing this information wasn't working properly. This resulted in thousands of users who were unable to successfully create an account.

Rebuilding Components from Scratch When Proven Systems Were Available. Last, the Data Services Hub, which is a proven identity service available to the government for consumer applications, was surprisingly not used to its full extent. Instead, the website builders created new software systems meant to do exactly the same thing. In an article by Mashable the author emphasizes the fact that if the HealthCare.gov site had in fact fully leveraged the Data Hub, then it wouldn't have been such a mess.

With all of these missteps and rookie mistakes under consideration, what is known is the fact that HealthCare.gov was overwhelmed with the amount of visitors to one site.

Why the Government Should Have Made Load Testing a Priority
It seems like those responsible for deploying the site didn't really appreciate the importance of load testing, which is especially surprising when you consider that the website had in fact failed a pre-launch load test miserably. Of course, politics came into play as the deadline for the website was non-negotiable. But with all the red flags warning of failure, load testing should have played a much more critical role and here's why:

Prioritization of Problems and Fixes
A big issue with HealthCare.gov was that the contractors claimed they didn't have enough time and felt extreme pressure to roll out the website before it was properly tested. If load testing occurred earlier in the website development phase, testers would have been able to identify the parts of the website that were not working properly.

The major pain point in the entire HealthCare.gov website was the registration process that millions of Americans attempted to fill out. Had they load tested the website months out from the launch, the team would have been able to identify the root causes of performance issues and determine whether they were in application code or the app servers and infrastructure components.

Earlier Identification of Issues

 

This chart illustrates how much it costs the paying client to fix a bug according to the stage of development. At the operation stage, a bug can cost clients more than 150 times as much as a bug caught in the requirement stage.

Had the testers broken down their tests into smaller test cases, over time the administration might have taken the time to listen and understand that these little bugs needed to be fixed prior to the public launch.

Decisions Made from Intelligence on the Ground
We know the tension between testers and business owners can be pretty intense. The funders of the website want it up and running right away, but testers want to properly identify errors and have enough time to fix the issues that arise.

The administration decided to completely ignore the classic project management triangle.

The only way to increase the scope of a project without changing the due date would be to add more resources. Since the administration was rigid on all three sides of the triangle, the quality of the website suffered.

It's no wonder this website failed. The dynamics between the testers and heads of HealthCare.gov were strained, and it appeared the Obama administration chose to ignore testers who knew the website was not ready.

HealthCare.gov Today
The HealthCare.gov website isn't through the woods just yet. According to The Washington Post, the website has been flagged by over 22,000 people trying to correct errors the system made when they were signing up for a new federally-mandated health care plan.

Apparently, federal workers aren't able to access consumer data manually. "An unknown number of customers who are trying to get help through less formal means - by calling the health care marketplace directly - are told that HealthCare.gov's computer system isn't yet allowing federal workers to go into enrollment records and change them."

What needs to be understood here is that it's important to test early and often. If tests would have been conducted throughout the entire website development, the Obama administration would have avoided such an embarrassing and reputation-tarnishing event.

More Stories By Tim Hinds

Tim Hinds is the Product Marketing Manager for NeoLoad at Neotys. He has a background in Agile software development, Scrum, Kanban, Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery, and Continuous Testing practices.

Previously, Tim was Product Marketing Manager at AccuRev, a company acquired by Micro Focus, where he worked with software configuration management, issue tracking, Agile project management, continuous integration, workflow automation, and distributed version control systems.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@MicroservicesExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that Peak 10, Inc., a national IT infrastructure and cloud services provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Peak 10 provides reliable, tailored data center and network services, cloud and managed services. Its solutions are designed to scale and adapt to customers’ changing business needs, enabling them to lower costs, improve performance and focus inter...
Digital means customer preferences and behavior are driving enterprise technology decisions to be sure, but let’s not forget our employees. After all, when we say customer, we mean customer writ large, including partners, supply chain participants, and yes, those salaried denizens whose daily labor forms the cornerstone of the enterprise. While your customers bask in the warm rays of your digital efforts, are your employees toiling away in the dark recesses of your enterprise, pecking data into...
Wow, if you ever wanted to learn about Rugged DevOps (some call it DevSecOps), sit down for a spell with Shannon Lietz, Ian Allison and Scott Kennedy from Intuit. We discussed a number of important topics including internal war games, culture hacking, gamification of Rugged DevOps and starting as a small team. There are 100 gold nuggets in this conversation for novices and experts alike.
SYS-CON Events announced today that DatacenterDynamics has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. DatacenterDynamics is a brand of DCD Group, a global B2B media and publishing company that develops products to help senior professionals in the world's most ICT dependent organizations make risk-based infrastructure and capacity decisions.
With DevOps becoming more well-known and established practice in nearly every industry that delivers software, it is important to continually reassess its efficacy. This week’s top 10 includes a discussion on how the quick uptake of DevOps adoption in the enterprise has posed some serious challenges. Additionally, organizations who have taken the DevOps plunge must find ways to find, hire and keep their DevOps talent in order to keep the machine running smoothly.
Call it DevOps or not, if you are concerned about releasing more code faster and at a higher quality, the resulting software delivery chain and process will look and smell like DevOps. But for existing development teams, no matter what the velocity objective is, getting from here to there is not something that can be done without a plan. Moving your release cadence from months to weeks is not just about learning Agile practices and getting some automation tools. It involves people, tooling and ...
Between the mockups and specs produced by analysts, and resulting applications built by developers, there exists a gulf where projects fail, costs spiral, and applications disappoint. Methodologies like Agile attempt to address this with intensified communication, with partial success but many limitations. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Charles Kendrick, CTO & Chief Architect at Isomorphic Software, will present a revolutionary model enabled by new technologies. Learn how business and devel...
The notion of customer journeys, of course, are central to the digital marketer’s playbook. Clearly, enterprises should focus their digital efforts on such journeys, as they represent customer interactions over time. But making customer journeys the centerpiece of the enterprise architecture, however, leaves more questions than answers. The challenge arises when EAs consider the context of the customer journey in the overall architecture as well as the architectural elements that make up each...
Much of the discussion around cloud DevOps focuses on the speed with which companies need to get new code into production. This focus is important – because in an increasingly digital marketplace, new code enables new value propositions. New code is also often essential for maintaining competitive parity with market innovators. But new code doesn’t just have to deliver the functionality the business requires. It also has to behave well because the behavior of code in the cloud affects performan...
In 2006, Martin Fowler posted his now famous essay on Continuous Integration. Looking back, what seemed revolutionary, radical or just plain crazy is now common, pedestrian and "just what you do." I love it. Back then, building and releasing software was a real pain. Integration was something you did at the end, after code complete, and we didn't know how long it would take. Some people may recall how we, as an industry, spent a massive amount of time integrating code from one team with another...
As the software delivery industry continues to evolve and mature, the challenge of managing the growing list of the tools and processes becomes more daunting every day. Today, Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) platforms are proving most valuable by providing the governance, management and coordination for every stage of development, deployment and release. Recently, I spoke with Madison Moore at SD Times about the changing market and where ALM is headed.
If there is anything we have learned by now, is that every business paves their own unique path for releasing software- every pipeline, implementation and practices are a bit different, and DevOps comes in all shapes and sizes. Software delivery practices are often comprised of set of several complementing (or even competing) methodologies – such as leveraging Agile, DevOps and even a mix of ITIL, to create the combination that’s most suitable for your organization and that maximize your busines...
Struggling to keep up with increasing application demand? Learn how Platform as a Service (PaaS) can streamline application development processes and make resource management easy.
The goal of any tech business worth its salt is to provide the best product or service to its clients in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible. This is just as true in the development of software products as it is in other product design services. Microservices, an app architecture style that leans mostly on independent, self-contained programs, are quickly becoming the new norm, so to speak. With this change comes a declining reliance on older SOAs like COBRA, a push toward more s...
This is not a small hotel event. It is also not a big vendor party where politicians and entertainers are more important than real content. This is Cloud Expo, the world's longest-running conference and exhibition focused on Cloud Computing and all that it entails. If you want serious presentations and valuable insight about Cloud Computing for three straight days, then register now for Cloud Expo.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Stratoscale, the software company developing the next generation data center operating system, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Stratoscale is revolutionizing the data center with a zero-to-cloud-in-minutes solution. With Stratoscale’s hardware-agnostic, Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) solution to store everything, run anything and scale everywhere...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Men & Mice, the leading global provider of DNS, DHCP and IP address management overlay solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The Men & Mice Suite overlay solution is already known for its powerful application in heterogeneous operating environments, enabling enterprises to scale without fuss. Building on a solid range of diverse platform support,...
You deployed your app with the Bluemix PaaS and it's gaining some serious traction, so it's time to make some tweaks. Did you design your application in a way that it can scale in the cloud? Were you even thinking about the cloud when you built the app? If not, chances are your app is going to break. Check out this webcast to learn various techniques for designing applications that will scale successfully in Bluemix, for the confidence you need to take your apps to the next level and beyond.
I had the opportunity to catch up with Chris Corriere - DevOps Engineer at AutoTrader - to talk about his experiences in the realm of Rugged DevOps. We discussed automation, culture and collaboration, and which thought leaders he is following. Chris Corriere: Hey, I'm Chris Corriere. I'm a DevOps Engineer AutoTrader. Derek Weeks: Today we're going to talk about Rugged DevOps. It's a subject that's gaining a lot of traction in the community but not a lot of people are really familiar with wh...
APIs have taken the world by storm in recent years. The use of APIs has gone beyond just traditional "software" companies, to companies and organizations across industries using APIs to share information and power their applications. For some organizations, APIs are the biggest revenue drivers. For example, Salesforce generates nearly 50% of annual revenue through APIs. In other cases, APIs can increase a business's footprint and initiate collaboration. Netflix, for example, reported over 5 bi...