Exchange Websites Fail on Day One — Here’s What Sebelius Should Do Next

| October 2 2013
David Leeper

Memo to Kathleen Sebelius:

Sebelius1It’s called “load testing”, Madam Secretary.

Every large, mission-critical, software/network system undergoes load testing and performance testing before it is pressed into service.

What happened October 1st at healthcare.gov? I tried using the system. I saw nice pictures of smiling people, but I couldn’t get past the first few screens before the system stopped responding.  Even the “Live Chat” box didn’t work.

Did your systems people have to wait for live traffic to find out that healthcare.gov wouldn’t work? Good grief, Madam Secretary!

There are myriads of load-generating and performance-measurement systems available that you could have used in advance. Healthcare.gov should have been running smoothly for at least a month under a heavy simulated load before you launched it.

What happens now?  A search for someone to blame?  Congressional hearings?  I hope not.  You need to get this thing fixed.

Here is some advice that you can get from your systems engineers and political advisers — unless of course they are afraid of you.  Are you the type of manager who shoots messengers bearing bad news?

At a minimum, as the old systems-engineering saying goes, take no small slips.  Don’t tell the President you just need a week or two to “debug the glitches.”

If you’ve never load-tested this system properly, tell the President you need three months (or longer) to back off and do it right. Start with small simulated loads and build up until you see where the problems are.  Fix those.  Then gradually increase the load until you encounter more problems.  Fix those.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

Better yet –

Have a nice chat with the president and Harry Reid and ask them to make a magnanimous gesture to the Republicans and accept the one-year delay in Obamacare launch that the House has offered. Re-open the government. Be a hero. Your PR people can spin it, and the media will follow along as they always do.

This latter approach will give you the time you need to get the system working correctly, and you’ll spare the American people a lot of time, frustration, and expense — at least through FY2014.

Also, consider getting advice from the systems people at Google or Amazon.  They run systems that handle huge traffic loads without crashing. They know all about load testing and performance testing. It can be done. Do it. If you fail, what will happen to you? You can be sure Barack Obama will not shoulder the blame for a failure of his flagship program.  What will Obama do to you so that he escapes blame?

4 comments
dleeper47
dleeper47 moderator

Saturday Night Live on Oct 5: "How could you not be ready? That's like 1-800-FLOWERS getting caught off-guard by Valentine's Day."  Well put, SNL!!

david
david

Q: What would happen if the truly best and brightest ran the government?

A: The USA would be on the road to recovery instead of on the road to certain ruin.

WesternFreePress
WesternFreePress moderator

@davidI disagree.  I'm with W.F. Buckley:

"I would rather be governed by the first two thousand people in the Boston telephone directory than by the two thousand people on the faculty of Harvard University"