google building scaled

Google loses an excellent asset, the savior of HealthCare.gov

August 12, 2014 - Written By Wayne Peterkin

Anyone that has visited a Government site has probably seen how much of a terrible chore they can be to either navigate or get anything important done. Whether they simply look outdated or are just broken, many people have a hard time with them. Arguably, the most publicized recent blunder was the HealthCare.gov website. There was no way that you could have avoided seeing or hearing about the site’s disastrous performance in the news. Even now it has probably left a bad taste in the mouths of many users. The site was such a failure that many that opposed President Obama’s new health care bill used the site’s unreliability as a weapon against him. HealthCare.gov was such a mess that it failed at an astounding 57% of the time! The site’s performance was completely laughable and deserved most of the ridicule that was thrown at it.

Fast forward from October first to December first and the site’s performance had improved drastically. The site was now working 90% of the time which allowed many people who needed the sites services to finally able to make some progress. At this point in time it wasn’t completely fixed but it was getting there. So, who was responsible for saving the the troubled and abysmally performing HealthCare.gov website? It turns out that the Obama administration called in someone that they have already worked with during the Obama campaign, Mikey Dickerson.

Mikey Dickerson was a Google Site-Reliability Engineer that is extremely well known in his field of work but as much as Dickerson’s reputation preceded him, fixing a site which was as broken as HealthCare.gov was no easy task. In fact, according to Dickerson and every other member of the team, it was the most difficult task that they have ever faced. Dickerson and his team projected that by November 6th they would have the site up and running to the point where consumers could actually use the site to enroll. Though this was most certainly proven to be true, Dickerson did not return to Google until January.

This disaster was released upon America for some very basic reasons, reasons that should never have been over looked by any operation of this magnitude. Dickerson was shocked to find the primitive ways in which the task of managing the site was being handled. Not only did the workers lack the modern tools required to run the site, the workers couldn’t even figure out why the site was crashing! They were just helplessly watching the whole operation fall to pieces. Truly, this was a fine example of our tax paying dollars going to waste.

Immediately, Dickerson and his team got to work. The most important task faced by Dickerson and his team was to locate the bottlenecks. Within a couple days large monitors were installed on the walls to display data about the servers. Finally there were now tools which allowed contractors to monitor logs from different systems in a unified manner to pin point the main causes of all the mess within the infrastructure.

Another problem common to many businesses that suffer exactly like this is poor management. This might be one of the primary reasons as to why Dickerson was recruited. Thanks to his knowledge of the profession and leadership skills, HealthCare.gov is now functioning well. Dickerson is now the leader of a small team which will be tasked with attacking more problems such as this. We all know that he will most certainly have his work cut out for him. The American people clearly need him much more than Google does.