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Obamacare II

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How much of a disaster can a website be?  Well Obama and team have taken failure to new levels.  OBc in a word:

Omnishambles

noun

British informal

   "a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterized by a string of blunders and miscalculations"

In the military we use the term:  FUBAR (Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition) 

There are 2 sides to this coin when viewed from the vantage point of a software engineer (which I am):

1)  The front end which is the website:  Originally its capacity was only 6500 on at a time and now I understand it has been raised to 50,000 concurrent users.  On Thanksgiving day, Wal Mart's website had over 400 Million page views, yes 400 Million!  Facebook with almost a billion users serves up to 3 million concurrent users, E bay, Amazon all serve millions concurrent users with rarely an issu in data or personal information security.

When we build a website one of the first questions asked is what is the expected usage rates, daily, surge, weekend etc.  This tells us how to size the server array to support requirements.  In the case of OBc its evident not a single person knew or even had the basic understanding of how to launch a website.

Building and launching a website today is not difficult and can be done by most high school students.  In 1997 I led the development of a retail website that we launched with with 12 million users on day 1 and we never had an issue.  That website was  named to InformationWeek’s All Time Top 5 Websites, May 2000.  Another implementation I led the development on was the electronic ticketing for United Airlines.  It launched with out failure on time and on budget.  Again a challenge due to users, security and other requirements but my team did correctly and we had success.

The company and the government share the blame for this epic failure.  It might be noted that the govt. has a very long track record of Information Technology failures.  In many cases the project is just killed and the all too often $1Billion dollar investment is just buried in the Trillion dollar govt budget.  I personally know of two at that level that failed.

2)  The back end which is the application software:  There are 500 Million lines of code, this is a staggering amount of code and it too is clearly broken.  Major software implementations at the commercial level can run as much as 50 million lines of code.  It is evident to me that this software was cobbled together from the start.  I would also suggest that basic software development methodology was never followed.  We have many major web based software implementations (E bay, Amazon, Facebook, Wal Mart, Craigslist) that receive millions of visitors per day and often are buying products, using credit cards and market baskets all which works almost 100% of the time.  Comparing OBc to other sites is like comparing a garbage truck to a Ferrari, a mud fence to a supermodel, take away is only failure now and in the future.

Trying to fix broken software is always a challenge.  I know of no software that is glitch free at some point in time and in use more and more issues crop up, thus we release new versions.  Every time Microsoft releases a new operating system it follows up with 'patches'.  Trying to patch a software application with 500 million lines of codes is a near impossibility.  In our world of programing we always ask one question when writing code.  'What happens next?'  Every line of code interacts with one or more other lines of code.  Its truly building a house of dominoes.  Let one line fail and it has the potential to bring down the entire system and wreck havoc throughout.  The chances of patching up 500 million lines of code are near non-existant.  The more you fix the more its broke.

Costs will creep beyond $1 Billion to get is somewhat stable and usable for more than a few.  What they are not telling you.  If you think the development costs were high the you have a shock coming.  "Out-year costing" (OYC).  OYC is 5x to as much as 15x as expensive as the development cost.  The reason for this is requirements are continually changing, thus software has to be 'tweaked', patches written and the longer and older the software stays in place the more cost goes up.  This is shaping up to be the most expensive software development and implementation in history and will be a model for failure and how to do it wrong.

Lastly the question of security of your personal data:  From a hackers viewpoint its a buffet.  That said that is far from a worry whether or not someone has hacked and has your personal info.  While I fear hackers and you should, I fear our government even more.  Now the govt. has all your data and access to your most personal medical information.  If OBc is allowed to stand, this information will come to deicide our future medical care and life.  OBc is managed by the IPAB (Independent Payment Advisory Board), a group of 15 appointed people that will control healthcare for We the People.  While they supposedly cannot ration healthcare, they can make a decision to manage the amount they pay for people and procedures.  This means they can pay less for someone older who has cancer or other life threatening disease.  Your life and health of your and your family is in the hands of someone other than you, your family and your doctor.

A year from now we will use a new term in describing Obc and I will call upon my military background again:  SNAFU (Situation Normal All Fouled Up

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