Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz, Pat Romanski, ManageEngine IT Matters, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: Agile Computing, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Government Cloud

Agile Computing: Article

The FTC Is More Responsive than NASA

A naively relaunched site might go down on the first cron run in a flood of scheduled posts and emails

The United States Congress managed to avoid a default with a last-minute agreement. But the reboot's still in progress, and many federal government servers and services remain shut down. The cause of the online blackout is this set of guidelines released by the Office of Management and Budget, and in particular their answer to this question:

Q5: What if the cost of shutting down a website exceeds the cost of maintaining services?
A5: The determination of which services continue during an appropriations lapse is not affected by whether the costs of shutdown exceed the costs of maintaining services.

This might seem ridiculous at first glance, but anyone who builds websites shouldn't be surprised that they included this directive. Keeping a site running isn't just a matter of paying hosting bills, and even the most well-crafted architectures never stop needing a hand at the wheel (especially where security is concerned). This is an unusual time, and it comes with unusual traffic patterns: the role of government is being questioned, and nothing brings in pageviews like national political scrutiny. Having a .gov domain is a major liability when you don't have staff waiting to perform disaster recovery.

So things look bad now - sites down, no timeline for return. The shutdown guidelines didn't instruct agencies to create plans to relaunch their web properties, but they'll need to have one in place if they want it to go smoothly. A naively relaunched site might go down on the first cron run in a flood of scheduled posts and emails. ‘Open data' government sites will get slammed by scrapers trying to make up for lost time. Exciting new bugs will pop up for data-driven government sites that never made plans for backfilling missing data or coping with null values. And of course, every site will have to deal with the traffic from rubberneckers - as soon as the news story breaks that a given agency's site is up, people who would otherwise never consider looking at it will scope it out.

This has led to an interesting question around the office: which agencies are best prepared to turn the lights back on? We do synthetic monitoring, so we're prepared to figure it out.

AppView Web synthetic user experience data for a set of government websites affected by the shutdown.

The first step in setting up synthetic monitoring is to choose a source. I went with our web monitor in Ashburn, Virginia because its proximity to Washington, D.C. makes it a solid proxy for the congressional staffers that drive a disproportionately high amount of traffic to breaking stories.

Next up, I chose several monitoring targets based on stories from VentureBeat, theWashington PostComputerworld, and Politico. Many government sites could've made the list, but I narrowed it down to five with a high impact on researchers, scientists, and the open government movement:

Finally, I defined each site's scripted transaction with our Selenium-based Firefox script recorder plugin. Since each site's layout is unique, I went with simple transactions across the board. That meant focusing on common user actions (browsing for recent news) instead of more complicated workflows (registering for accounts or logging in).

Pretty straightforward, right? There's just one caveat to be aware of: I opted to record these scripts on the Internet Archive's cached, pre-shutdown versions of the sites. That means that they'll intentionally fail when they're run against a shutdown splash page. By setting it up like this, I'll only see a green light when everything is back to business as usual.

And, well, it didn't take long to get there! My guess had been that NASA would be back first, but in the end, it was actually the FTC website that crossed the finish line less than two hours into the 17th. Someone, somewhere stayed up all night to press that button and turn the site back on again - and even though I wasn't watching, I know right when it happened and what impact it had on response time.

The FTC site has sub-one-second response time.

The FTC site has sub-one-second response time.

On the other hand, it looks like Census.gov and Data.gov were scheduled to open business at 9 AM this morning:

Census.gov saw a brief latency spike a few transactions after it first started serving pages.

Census.gov saw a brief latency spike a few transactions after it first started serving pages.

500px-gov-data

It seems that being a tech-savvy agency doesn't have much impact on responsiveness,
because NASA and NIST are still down as of this blog post:

500px-gov-nasa

NASA's site won't get past the homepage, as of this article.

500px-gov-nist

NIST's site may actually be running from some locations, as our web monitor in Virginia can access part of it even though I see a nopaywall. However, it took over a minute to load a largely static page.

All told, I think the FTC deserves some real credit for their user experience. It takes less than one second to get information on making a FOIA request, and they were ready for business almost eight hours before some other government sites. On the other hand, I expected a much better showing from NASA and NIST. I already guessed wrong, but what's your take as to when they'll be back up and running?

More Stories By James Meickle

James started as a hobbyist web developer, even though his academic background is in social psychology and political science. Lately his interests as a professional Drupal developer have migrated towards performance, security, and automation. His favorite languages is Python, his favorite editor is Sublime, and his favorite game is Dwarf Fortress.

@ThingsExpo Stories
"We've been engaging with a lot of customers including Panasonic, we've been involved with Cisco and now we're working with the U.S. government - the Department of Homeland Security," explained Peter Jung, Chief Product Officer at Pulzze Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Calligo, an innovative cloud service provider offering mid-sized companies the highest levels of data privacy and security, has been named "Bronze Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Calligo offers unparalleled application performance guarantees, commercial flexibility and a personalised support service from its globally located cloud plat...
"We are focused on SAP running in the clouds, to make this super easy because we believe in the tremendous value of those powerful worlds - SAP and the cloud," explained Frank Stienhans, CTO of Ocean9, Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devic...
"The Striim platform is a full end-to-end streaming integration and analytics platform that is middleware that covers a lot of different use cases," explained Steve Wilkes, Founder and CTO at Striim, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"We provide IoT solutions. We provide the most compatible solutions for many applications. Our solutions are industry agnostic and also protocol agnostic," explained Richard Han, Head of Sales and Marketing and Engineering at Systena America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
SYS-CON Events announced today that DXWorldExpo has been named “Global Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Digital Transformation is the key issue driving the global enterprise IT business. Digital Transformation is most prominent among Global 2000 enterprises and government institutions.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Datera, that offers a radically new data management architecture, has been named "Exhibitor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Datera is transforming the traditional datacenter model through modern cloud simplicity. The technology industry is at another major inflection point. The rise of mobile, the Internet of Things, data storage and Big...
DX World EXPO, LLC., a Lighthouse Point, Florida-based startup trade show producer and the creator of "DXWorldEXPO® - Digital Transformation Conference & Expo" has announced its executive management team. The team is headed by Levent Selamoglu, who has been named CEO. "Now is the time for a truly global DX event, to bring together the leading minds from the technology world in a conversation about Digital Transformation," he said in making the announcement.
"MobiDev is a Ukraine-based software development company. We do mobile development, and we're specialists in that. But we do full stack software development for entrepreneurs, for emerging companies, and for enterprise ventures," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
While the focus and objectives of IoT initiatives are many and diverse, they all share a few common attributes, and one of those is the network. Commonly, that network includes the Internet, over which there isn't any real control for performance and availability. Or is there? The current state of the art for Big Data analytics, as applied to network telemetry, offers new opportunities for improving and assuring operational integrity. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jim Frey, Vice President of S...
SYS-CON Events announced today that DXWorldExpo has been named “Global Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Digital Transformation is the key issue driving the global enterprise IT business. Digital Transformation is most prominent among Global 2000 enterprises and government institutions.
In his opening keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Michael Maximilien, Research Scientist, Architect, and Engineer at IBM, discussed the full potential of the cloud and social data requires artificial intelligence. By mixing Cloud Foundry and the rich set of Watson services, IBM's Bluemix is the best cloud operating system for enterprises today, providing rapid development and deployment of applications that can take advantage of the rich catalog of Watson services to help drive insights from the vast t...
SYS-CON Events announced today that EnterpriseTech has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. EnterpriseTech is a professional resource for news and intelligence covering the migration of high-end technologies into the enterprise and business-IT industry, with a special focus on high-tech solutions in new product development, workload management, increased effic...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Massive Networks, that helps your business operate seamlessly with fast, reliable, and secure internet and network solutions, has been named "Exhibitor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. As a premier telecommunications provider, Massive Networks is headquartered out of Louisville, Colorado. With years of experience under their belt, their team of...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Academy named "Bronze Sponsor" of 21st International Cloud Expo which will take place October 31 - November 2, 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Cloud Academy is the industry’s most innovative, vendor-neutral cloud technology training platform. Cloud Academy provides continuous learning solutions for individuals and enterprise teams for Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and the most popular cloud com...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloudistics, an on-premises cloud computing company, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Cloudistics delivers a complete public cloud experience with composable on-premises infrastructures to medium and large enterprises. Its software-defined technology natively converges network, storage, compute, virtualization, and ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CHEETAH Training & Innovation will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct. 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CHEETAH Training & Innovation is a cloud consulting and IT training firm specializing in improving clients cloud strategies and infrastructures for medium to large companies.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Datanami has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Datanami is a communication channel dedicated to providing insight, analysis and up-to-the-minute information about emerging trends and solutions in Big Data. The publication sheds light on all cutting-edge technologies including networking, storage and applications, and thei...
The current age of digital transformation means that IT organizations must adapt their toolset to cover all digital experiences, beyond just the end users’. Today’s businesses can no longer focus solely on the digital interactions they manage with employees or customers; they must now contend with non-traditional factors. Whether it's the power of brand to make or break a company, the need to monitor across all locations 24/7, or the ability to proactively resolve issues, companies must adapt to...