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

Posted: October 2, 2013 at 4:25 am   /   by

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 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 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. 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?

David Leeper

David Leeper

David Leeper is a retired engineer living in Scottsdale, AZ, with his wife of 45 years. He is currently a volunteer science teacher at In his 40-year career he held positions from lab technician to technical vice president at Bell Labs, Motorola, and Intel. He holds 16 patents in telecom technology and a PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. During his career, he wrote mainly for technical journals including Scientific American. He began writing for in 2011.
David Leeper

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Exchange Websites Fail on Day One -- Here's What Sebelius Should Do Next