Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Srinivasan Sundara Rajan, Darren Anstee, Pat Romanski

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
Data is an unusual currency; it is not restricted by the same transactional limitations as money or people. In fact, the more that you leverage your data across multiple business use cases, the more valuable it becomes to the organization. And the same can be said about the organization’s analytics. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Bill Schmarzo, CTO for the Big Data Practice at EMC, will introduce a methodology for capturing, enriching and sharing data (and analytics) across the organizati...
DevOps at Cloud Expo, taking place Nov 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 19th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long dev...
I'm a lonely sensor. I spend all day telling the world how I'm feeling, but none of the other sensors seem to care. I want to be connected. I want to build relationships with other sensors to be more useful for my human. I want my human to understand that when my friends next door are too hot for a while, I'll soon be flaming. And when all my friends go outside without me, I may be left behind. Don't just log my data; use the relationship graph. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ryan Boyd, Engi...
The vision of a connected smart home is becoming reality with the application of integrated wireless technologies in devices and appliances. The use of standardized and TCP/IP networked wireless technologies in line-powered and battery operated sensors and controls has led to the adoption of radios in the 2.4GHz band, including Wi-Fi, BT/BLE and 802.15.4 applied ZigBee and Thread. This is driving the need for robust wireless coexistence for multiple radios to ensure throughput performance and th...
The Internet of Things can drive efficiency for airlines and airports. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Sudip Majumder, senior director of development at Oracle, will discuss the technical details of the connected airline baggage and related social media solutions. These IoT applications will enhance travelers' journey experience and drive efficiency for the airlines and the airports. The session will include a working demo and a technical d...
SYS-CON Events announced today the Enterprise IoT Bootcamp, being held November 1-2, 2016, in conjunction with 19th Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Combined with real-world scenarios and use cases, the Enterprise IoT Bootcamp is not just based on presentations but with hands-on demos and detailed walkthroughs. We will introduce you to a variety of real world use cases prototyped using Arduino, Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone, Spark, and Intel Edison. Y...
Fact is, enterprises have significant legacy voice infrastructure that’s costly to replace with pure IP solutions. How can we bring this analog infrastructure into our shiny new cloud applications? There are proven methods to bind both legacy voice applications and traditional PSTN audio into cloud-based applications and services at a carrier scale. Some of the most successful implementations leverage WebRTC, WebSockets, SIP and other open source technologies. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Da...
If you’re responsible for an application that depends on the data or functionality of various IoT endpoints – either sensors or devices – your brand reputation depends on the security, reliability, and compliance of its many integrated parts. If your application fails to deliver the expected business results, your customers and partners won't care if that failure stems from the code you developed or from a component that you integrated. What can you do to ensure that the endpoints work as expect...
Information technology is an industry that has always experienced change, and the dramatic change sweeping across the industry today could not be truthfully described as the first time we've seen such widespread change impacting customer investments. However, the rate of the change, and the potential outcomes from today's digital transformation has the distinct potential to separate the industry into two camps: Organizations that see the change coming, embrace it, and successful leverage it; and...
SYS-CON Events announced today that China Unicom will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. China United Network Communications Group Co. Ltd ("China Unicom") was officially established in 2009 on the basis of the merger of former China Netcom and former China Unicom. China Unicom mainly operates a full range of telecommunications services including mobile broadband (GSM, WCDMA, LTE F...
Enterprise IT has been in the era of Hybrid Cloud for some time now. But it seems most conversations about Hybrid are focused on integrating AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google ECM into existing on-premises systems. Where is all the Private Cloud? What do technology providers need to do to make their offerings more compelling? How should enterprise IT executives and buyers define their focus, needs, and roadmap, and communicate that clearly to the providers?
The Transparent Cloud-computing Consortium (abbreviation: T-Cloud Consortium) will conduct research activities into changes in the computing model as a result of collaboration between "device" and "cloud" and the creation of new value and markets through organic data processing High speed and high quality networks, and dramatic improvements in computer processing capabilities, have greatly changed the nature of applications and made the storing and processing of data on the network commonplace.
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM Company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. SoftLayer, an IBM Company, provides cloud infrastructure as a service from a growing number of data centers and network points of presence around the world. SoftLayer’s customers range from Web startups to global enterprises.
Digital innovation is the next big wave of business transformation based on digital technologies of which IoT and Big Data are key components, For example: Business boundary innovation is a challenge to excavate third-party business value using IoT and BigData, like Nest Business structure innovation may propose re-building business structure from scratch, as Uber does in the taxicab industry The social model innovation is also a big challenge to the new social architecture with the design fr...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pulzze Systems will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Pulzze Systems, Inc. provides infrastructure products for the Internet of Things to enable any connected device and system to carry out matched operations without programming. For more information, visit http://www.pulzzesystems.com.
IoT is fundamentally transforming the auto industry, turning the vehicle into a hub for connected services, including safety, infotainment and usage-based insurance. Auto manufacturers – and businesses across all verticals – have built an entire ecosystem around the Connected Car, creating new customer touch points and revenue streams. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Macario Namie, Head of IoT Strategy at Cisco Jasper, will share real-world examples of how IoT transforms the car from a static p...
Big Data has been changing the world. IoT fuels the further transformation recently. How are Big Data and IoT related? In his session at @BigDataExpo, Tony Shan, a renowned visionary and thought leader, will explore the interplay of Big Data and IoT. He will anatomize Big Data and IoT separately in terms of what, which, why, where, when, who, how and how much. He will then analyze the relationship between IoT and Big Data, specifically the drilldown of how the 4Vs of Big Data (Volume, Variety,...
Video experiences should be unique and exciting! But that doesn’t mean you need to patch all the pieces yourself. Users demand rich and engaging experiences and new ways to connect with you. But creating robust video applications at scale can be complicated, time-consuming and expensive. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Zohar Babin, Vice President of Platform, Ecosystem and Community at Kaltura, will discuss how VPaaS enables you to move fast, creating scalable video experiences that reach your...
The many IoT deployments around the world are busy integrating smart devices and sensors into their enterprise IT infrastructures. Yet all of this technology – and there are an amazing number of choices – is of no use without the software to gather, communicate, and analyze the new data flows. Without software, there is no IT. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will look at the protocols that communicate data and the emerging data analy...
WebRTC adoption has generated a wave of creative uses of communications and collaboration through websites, sales apps, customer care and business applications. As WebRTC has become more mainstream it has evolved to use cases beyond the original peer-to-peer case, which has led to a repeating requirement for interoperability with existing infrastructures. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Graham Holt, Executive Vice President of Daitan Group, will cover implementation examples that have enabled ea...