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Sat Oct 5, 2013, 01:05 PM

 

Reddit developers analysis of healthcare.gov

Cited by Ezra Klein at wonkblog. A bit over my head but for the techies...

http://www.reddit.com/r/webdev/comments/1nifc5/i_guess_a_couple_of_are_trying_to_sign_up_for/?sort=confidence

[]MikesWastedLife 64 points 4 days ago
hahaha. my wife works on this project, but not as a developer. last night she said "i have no idea how the site is going to go live tomorrow." well now we know.

[]Spektr44 22 points 3 days ago
View source. They're loading 11 CSS files and 62 (wat?) JavaScript files on each page, uncompressed and without expires headers. They have blocks of HTML inexplicably wrapped in script tags. Wtf?

[]enigmamonkey 6 points 3 days ago
Wow. That sort of unnecessary overhead is going to kill their servers in HTTP requests that could have been minified and packed into two files (1 CSS and 1 JS).

[]Spektr44 6 points 3 days ago
Absolutely. The only time I've had one of my sites crash under load, it wasn't due to db access or dynamic content. It was due to me being naive about serving static content, and the site was getting slammed on those requests. That's when I got a clue about CSS sprites, combining CSS and JS, setting proper headers, using a CDN, etc. But I don't think I've ever seen anything as bad as including 62 javascript files on a page!

[]enigmamonkey 2 points 3 days ago
I too speak from first hand experience on this, which scares me. This site seems reasonably well designed but technically I assume they would have prepared better from a performance efficiency standpoint. I have personally been in that position where there were thousands of people slamming a server all at the same moment, and I was (figuratively) pulling my hair out trying to figure out what to do and how. It suggests they didn't put thought into the sort of traffic they'd receive at all and it turned into a huge news event and honestly, talk about pressure! I'm glad I didn't have an entire nation watching me and my team... Phew!



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Response to dkf (Original post)

Sat Oct 5, 2013, 01:09 PM

1. Much more here...

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/05/us-usa-healthcare-technology-analysis-idUSBRE99407T20131005

(Reuters) - Days after the launch of the federal government's Obamacare website, millions of Americans looking for information on new health insurance plans were still locked out of the system even though its designers scrambled to add capacity.

Government officials blame the persistent glitches on an overwhelming crush of users - 8.6 million unique visitors by Friday - trying to visit the HealthCare.gov website this week.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which oversaw development of the site, declined to make any of its IT experts available for interviews. CGI Group Inc, the Canadian contractor that built HealthCare.gov, is "declining to comment at this time," said spokeswoman Linda Odorisio.

Five outside technology experts interviewed by Reuters, however, say they believe flaws in system architecture, not traffic alone, contributed to the problems.

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.

If they are right, then just bringing more servers online, as officials say they are doing, will not fix the site.

"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."

The online exchanges were launched on October 1 under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, to offer healthcare insurance plans to millions of uninsured Americans.

OVERLOADED

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 was able to track the files being requested through a feature in the Firefox browser.

Of the 92 he found, 56 were JavaScript files, including plug-ins that make it easier for code to work on multiple browsers (such as Microsoft Corp's Internet Explorer and Google Inc's Chrome) and let users upload files to HealthCare.gov.

It is not clear why the upload function was included.

"They set up the website in such a way that too many requests to the server arrived at the same time," Hancock said.

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.

Hancock described the situation as similar to what happens when hackers conduct a distributed denial of service, or DDOS, attack on a website: they get large numbers of computers to simultaneously request information from the server that runs a website, overwhelming it and causing it to crash or otherwise stumble. "The site basically DDOS'd itself," he said.

In an indication that traffic alone may not be the only problem, a government official with knowledge of the matter said that technicians at HealthCare.gov had not only added more servers but had also "improved system configurations." The official did not elaborate.

But HHS announced late Friday that it would take down part of HealthCare.gov for part of the weekend, another sign that extra servers alone would not fix the problems.

Many users experienced problems involving security questions they had to answer in order to create an account on HealthCare.gov. No questions appeared in the boxes, or an error message said they were using the same answers for different questions when they were not.

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

"It's a bug in the system, a coding problem," said Jyoti Bansal, chief executive of AppDynamics, a San Francisco-based company that builds products that monitor websites and identify problems.

Hancock's analysis suggested that the security questions were coming from a separate server and that better system architecture would have cached the questions on the main HealthCare.gov server.

"The more you have to ask another database for information, the more it can get overwhelmed," said Jonathan Wu, a computer scientist and co-founder of ValuePenguin, a data and research website that offers spending-related tools for consumers.

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Response to B2G (Reply #1)

Sat Oct 5, 2013, 01:14 PM

4. That translated my link into normal language lol. Thanks!

 

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Response to B2G (Reply #1)

Sat Oct 5, 2013, 05:22 PM

10. So why did we use "CGI Group" a Canadian Contractor? Is that NAFTA in Action?

CGI Group Inc, the Canadian contractor that built HealthCare.gov, is "declining to comment at this time," said spokeswoman Linda Odorisio.

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We have Tech Workers, Computer Programmers who've been laid off here in the USA and we give this to a Canadian Company?

I guess it's possible that they thought that since Canadians have Universal Health Care Coverage that they could design a system for us. But, the fact is, that the ACA Act isn't Universal Coverage so I would imagine that the programming would have to be unique to our situation and they'd start from scratch. But, we do have Blue Cross and other large insurance programs ongoing here in the USA ..so, why couldn't they hire people familiar with those programs here in the USA?

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Response to dkf (Original post)

Sat Oct 5, 2013, 01:10 PM

2. Maybe the 13 Anonymous hackers who just got indicted could help them fix for a free ticket

out of jail.

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Response to dkf (Original post)

Sat Oct 5, 2013, 01:12 PM

3. I sorta get the idea

but am totally lost as to the meaning of the technical language.

Poor design ( inexpereinced programmers??) seems to be the gist of the comments.

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Response to dixiegrrrrl (Reply #3)

Sat Oct 5, 2013, 01:15 PM

5. Read reply #1. Reuters translation. :)

 

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Response to dkf (Reply #5)

Sat Oct 5, 2013, 04:46 PM

8. Ya know, the Gov is building those huge servers out in Utah......

Maybe they can help.

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Response to dixiegrrrrl (Reply #8)

Sat Oct 5, 2013, 04:53 PM

9. Heck I wish they'd transfer the whole thing and dedicate it to improving health care and

 

Accelerating scientific research.

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Response to dixiegrrrrl (Reply #3)

Sat Oct 5, 2013, 09:12 PM

14. Probably not inexperienced

but rather programmers that usually work on intranet (within a company) rather than internet programming. When the server is down the hall and has a hard link many of the issues being discussed aren't obvious.

When you have to go across the internet this setup looks to be armature hour.

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Response to dkf (Original post)

Sat Oct 5, 2013, 01:21 PM

6. Completely typical in today's software "development" environment.

 

The fact is that the majority of people working today, no matter where they are working or where they are from, have no understanding of what they're doing nor the skill to do it even if they did.

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Response to Egalitarian Thug (Reply #6)

Sat Oct 5, 2013, 01:41 PM

7. BS

Complete and total BS.

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Response to B2G (Reply #7)

Sat Oct 5, 2013, 07:24 PM

11. LOL! The results throughout the industry speak for themselves.

 

Read through the articles...

I have a great deal of personal experience throughout the country in both the private and governmental sectors and this kind of idiocy is standard. There are excellent people of course, but they are the exception.

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Response to dkf (Original post)

Sat Oct 5, 2013, 07:28 PM

12. Reddit? That's the shit pile calling the Pine Sol smelly

 

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Response to dkf (Original post)

Sat Oct 5, 2013, 07:30 PM

13. This is concerning. nt

 

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Response to dkf (Original post)

Sat Oct 5, 2013, 09:21 PM

15. And the Head IT person...

Will be promoted!!!

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Response to greytdemocrat (Reply #15)

Sun Oct 6, 2013, 12:38 PM

17. For doing a heckuvajob, no doubt. n/t

 

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Response to dkf (Original post)

Sat Oct 5, 2013, 09:41 PM

16. The government is rarely good at first drafts or initial projects.

It's just how it is. One can blame outsourcing, one can blame the quality decline of current IT workers, whatever.

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