How Many People Does It Take to Crash Obamacare?

No, that’s not a setup for a joke, like “How many Libertarians does it take to screw in a lightbulb?” (“None, the market will provide correction.”)

Really, how many do you think?

The administration is saying that Healthcare.gov is non-functional because millions and millions of people are trying to access it.

In other words, it’s only failing ’cause it’s so gosh-darned popular.

One would think that a massive, high-profile website rollout would have been thoroughly load-tested long before it was set to go online, and corrected in order to handle millions of potential customers, or even tens of thousands.

A single server for a massively multiplayer online game should be able to handle anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000 or more players, and a successful MMO may have millions of subscribers in a graphically rich, live environment. And, of course, there are many, many servers in locations all around the world. I think one World of Warcraft player requires something like 10 kilobytes per second, which is like an eyelash in an ocean of data. One of the producers of Star Wars: The Old Republic game said their servers can handle 100,000 people and were tested with 200,000 bots (artificial players). That’s really high, but I see no reason to doubt him since BioWare spent $150-$200 million making and testing their game: one-fourth the amount spent on the Obamacare data processing.

So, if a company making a game spends months tuning servers so people can chop up wookiees with light sabers, you’d expect the flagship initiative of the current administration of the most powerful and wealthy nation in the history of the world would at least spend as much time testing theirs, right?

Right?!

Nope. One week. They load tested for a week.

And failed.

What was their failure threshold? How many people did it take to crash a system that was merely collecting simple data fields?

A few hundred.

What’s that, Tom? you say. You mean, a few hundred thousand, right?

Nope. A few hundred simulated logins took down the system on a test “days” before the launch.

I know what you’re thinking: “But they found the problem and fixed it, right? They got it to the point where it could handle hundreds of thousands of users, and it was only the demands of millions that brought it to its knees. Please tell me they got somewhere closer to being able to handle more people than God and the Machine has readers in a single day.”

Ah … no.

On launch day, it was able to handle two thousand logins before the servers packed their bags and headed for Tahiti with that hot backup drive from accounting.

Two. Thousand. People. 

In a nation of 300,000,000.

And now Secretary Sebelius, testing out what she’ll wear for her appointment under the bus, says Obama never knew, and Obama is sounding as surprised as anyone about the failings.

“No one is madder about the Web site than I am,” he said. “which means it’s going to get fixed.”

Really?

Why?

Wasn’t he engaged before this? How does his anger translate into a solution to technological, administrative, financial, and managerial incompetence? When the Republicans were begging for a one-year delay in implementation, why didn’t he, in the spirit of bipartisanship and covering-his-own-ass-ship, agree and give everyone time to work things out? And why is a nation of laws and democratically elected leaders–a Republic in the purest and most classical sense of the word–being driven into ruin by the whims and vanity of this one man?

See also: HealthCare.gov in Three Images

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About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.


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