During last week's glitch-filled rollout of the Obamacare insurance exchanges, government officials mainly blamed unexpectedly high web traffic for long wait times and error messages. This week, however, the Obama administration is acknowledging that the system needs new software and hardware, The Wall Street Journal reports. "We can do better and we are working around the clock to do so," Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services, told The Journal.
Federal officials said they'll be making the software and hardware fixes to smooth the process to create accounts, and hopefully address more serious errors. Experts said that errors within the system to verify the identity of enrollees have been crashing the site, and that overall the system was built on a "sloppy software foundation" that wasn't able to withstand the traffic it received last week.
In fact, experts have been saying for days now that software, not traffic, was the main plague of the exchange sites. Last week web developers took to Reddit to throw in their two cents on the coding errors in the exchanges, and a Saturday report from Reuters found that experts from five technology firms blamed the exchange's infrastructure. On Saturday, Jyoti Bansal, the founder of an app management company, told The Washington Post that, based on his experience, "the challenges look like glitches in software code. And the software code didn't go through enough testing."
Bansal also directly challenged the administration's web traffic explanation for errors, saying:
"That seems like not a very good excuse to me. In sites like these there's a very standard approach to capacity planning. You start with some basic math. [...] Before you launch you run a lot of load testing with twice the load of the peak , so you can go through and remove glitches. I’m a very very big supporter of the health-care act, but I don’t buy the argument that the load was too unexpected."
But officials still blame high traffic. In an interview with USA Today published Sunday, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park said that they system was designed to accommodate 50,000 to 60,000 users at any one time. It's currently been getting up to 250,000 users at once, and over 8 million users visited the federally-run exchanges during their first four days. "These bugs were functions of volume,'' Park told USA Today, in what has so far been the administration's most detailed explanation of the problems with the exchange. "Take away the volume and it works.''
Still, Park laid out a series of software and hardware fixes government IT professionals will be making in the near future, including moving the portion of healthcare.gov that processes applications to a special server, to give the system more computing power. "We're obviously not satisfied with the performance,'' Park said, reiterating Peters's words. "We're working 24-7.''
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.