500 million lines of code?!! That's 500 million things that can go wrong. Let's put that in perspective. The Space Shuttle has about 400 thousand lines of code. The Mars rover curiosity has about 3 million lines of code, and it had to fly to Mars, and then make an unbelievable landing that involved firing rockets, using a skyhook, then figuring out where it was and starting up numerous science instruments that process the atmosphere, the geology, and possibly some biology... Checking whether someone qualifies for health insurance and then letting them compare a few dozen policies, is a joke compared to doing what the space shuttle and the Mars rover have to do.
The entire windows operating system, which is known to be one of the biggest software pigs ever developed has only 50 million lines of code, with a big chunk probably being old leftover code that doesn't even do anything anymore.
Here's slate's take on this unGodly monstrosity that never should have seen the light of day. A piece of junk this big could easily take months to repair well enough that it can just limp along. My guess is that in the end they may end up scrapping the whole mess and having to start over.
more from slate below the fold
“One specialist said that as many as five million lines of software code may need to be rewritten before the Web site runs properly.”
But the software developers I’ve talked to see it a little differently. If the site really contains 500 million lines of code, they say, that’s a strong hint that the programmers involved are doing something wrong.
Dan Check, Slate’s vice president for technology, puts it this way: “If you contract something out and get 500 million lines of code back, there’s no way it’s going to work correctly.”
Here's the single most important decision you can make on your software project if you want it to be successful: keep it small. Small may not accomplish much, but the odds of outright failure—a disturbingly common outcome for most software projects—(are) low.
So if, as the Times piece suggests, the contractors responsible for fixing HealthCare.gov are already thinking about the task in terms of millions of lines of code, the situation may be even worse than we thought. It’s not just that the problem is large in scope—it’s that the people in charge of fixing it are going about it all wrong.
Let's hope the people in the "tech surge" are really good. I have a lot of sympathy for these people since they have to do something that is very difficult. They have to go through millions of lines of code, and try to figure out what the person that wrote that code was thinking. Sometimes it's far easier to just to throw a big chunk of code away and write a new piece, rather than try to fix someone else's code. So good luck to the people in the tech surge.
I suspect this mess will limp along until past the Dec. 15 deadline. Let's hope the administration learns a lesson and decides to make some major changes in the government procurement system so that delivering a quality product to the government becomes more important than knowing the bureaucratic ins and outs that win you the contracts.
And while they're at it, how about a tech surge to check on all those computer systems used in the voting booths?
UPDATE: many people, including myself are questioning the 500 million reported in the slate article. A quick google gives me this:
International Business Times They claim the source is the New York Times.
The source appears to be the New Yourk Times