Welcome!

Cloud Security Authors: Waqar Ahmad, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Derek Weeks, Dan Sarel

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.


@ThingsExpo Stories
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
The IoT has the potential to create a renaissance of manufacturing in the US and elsewhere. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Florent Solt, CTO and chief architect of Netvibes, will discuss how the expected exponential increase in the amount of data that will be processed, transported, stored, and accessed means there will be a huge demand for smart technologies to deliver it. Florent Solt is the CTO and chief architect of Netvibes. Prior to joining Netvibes in 2007, he co-founded Rift Technol...
Join IBM June 8 at 18th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn how to innovate like a startup and scale for the enterprise. You need to deliver quality applications faster and cheaper, attract and retain customers with an engaging experience across devices, and seamlessly integrate your enterprise systems. And you can't take 12 months to do it.
Machine Learning helps make complex systems more efficient. By applying advanced Machine Learning techniques such as Cognitive Fingerprinting, wind project operators can utilize these tools to learn from collected data, detect regular patterns, and optimize their own operations. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Stuart Gillen, Director of Business Development at SparkCognition, will discuss how research has demonstrated the value of Machine Learning in delivering next generation analytics to im...
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.
So, you bought into the current machine learning craze and went on to collect millions/billions of records from this promising new data source. Now, what do you do with them? Too often, the abundance of data quickly turns into an abundance of problems. How do you extract that "magic essence" from your data without falling into the common pitfalls? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Natalia Ponomareva, Software Engineer at Google, will provide tips on how to be successful in large scale machine lear...
IoT device adoption is growing at staggering rates, and with it comes opportunity for developers to meet consumer demand for an ever more connected world. Wireless communication is the key part of the encompassing components of any IoT device. Wireless connectivity enhances the device utility at the expense of ease of use and deployment challenges. Since connectivity is fundamental for IoT device development, engineers must understand how to overcome the hurdles inherent in incorporating multipl...
The IETF draft standard for M2M certificates is a security solution specifically designed for the demanding needs of IoT/M2M applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Brian Romansky, VP of Strategic Technology at TrustPoint Innovation, will explain how M2M certificates can efficiently enable confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity on highly constrained devices.
The paradigm has shifted. A Gartner survey shows that 43% of organizations are using or plan to implement the Internet of Things in 2016. However, not just a handful of companies are still using the old-style ad-hoc trial-and-error ways, unaware of the critical barriers, paint points, traps, and hidden roadblocks. How can you become a winner? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tony Shan will present a methodical approach to guide the holistic adoption and enablement of IoT implementations. This ov...
We’ve worked with dozens of early adopters across numerous industries and will debunk common misperceptions, which starts with understanding that many of the connected products we’ll use over the next 5 years are already products, they’re just not yet connected. With an IoT product, time-in-market provides much more essential feedback than ever before. Innovation comes from what you do with the data that the connected product provides in order to enhance the customer experience and optimize busi...
Artificial Intelligence has the potential to massively disrupt IoT. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, AJ Abdallat, CEO of Beyond AI, will discuss what the five main drivers are in Artificial Intelligence that could shape the future of the Internet of Things. AJ Abdallat is CEO of Beyond AI. He has over 20 years of management experience in the fields of artificial intelligence, sensors, instruments, devices and software for telecommunications, life sciences, environmental monitoring, process...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ericsson has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Ericsson is a world leader in the rapidly changing environment of communications technology – providing equipment, software and services to enable transformation through mobility. Some 40 percent of global mobile traffic runs through networks we have supplied. More than 1 billion subscribers around the world re...
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...
Angular 2 is a complete re-write of the popular framework AngularJS. Programming in Angular 2 is greatly simplified – now it's a component-based well-performing framework. This immersive one-day workshop at 18th Cloud Expo, led by Yakov Fain, a Java Champion and a co-founder of the IT consultancy Farata Systems and the product company SuranceBay, will provide you with everything you wanted to know about Angular 2.
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,...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Klein, CEO and Co-founder of Rachio, will discuss next generation communities that are using IoT to create more sustainable, intelligent communities. One example is Sterling Ranch, a 10,000 home development that – with the help of Siemens – will integrate IoT technology into the community to provide residents with energy and water savings as well as intelligent security. Everything from stop lights to sprinkler systems to building infrastructures will run ef...
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.
Manufacturers are embracing the Industrial Internet the same way consumers are leveraging Fitbits – to improve overall health and wellness. Both can provide consistent measurement, visibility, and suggest performance improvements customized to help reach goals. Fitbit users can view real-time data and make adjustments to increase their activity. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mark Bernardo Professional Services Leader, Americas, at GE Digital, will discuss how leveraging the Industrial Interne...
Whether your IoT service is connecting cars, homes, appliances, wearable, cameras or other devices, one question hangs in the balance – how do you actually make money from this service? The ability to turn your IoT service into profit requires the ability to create a monetization strategy that is flexible, scalable and working for you in real-time. It must be a transparent, smoothly implemented strategy that all stakeholders – from customers to the board – will be able to understand and comprehe...
Increasing IoT connectivity is forcing enterprises to find elegant solutions to organize and visualize all incoming data from these connected devices with re-configurable dashboard widgets to effectively allow rapid decision-making for everything from immediate actions in tactical situations to strategic analysis and reporting. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Shikhir Singh, Senior Developer Relations Manager at Sencha, will discuss how to create HTML5 dashboards that interact with IoT devic...