Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Igor Drobiazko, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Dana Gardner

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
SYS-CON Events announced today that Peak 10, Inc., a national IT infrastructure and cloud services provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Peak 10 provides reliable, tailored data center and network services, cloud and managed services. Its solutions are designed to scale and adapt to customers’ changing business needs, enabling them to lower costs, improve performance and focus inter...
Artificial Intelligence has the potential to massively disrupt IoT. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, AJ Abdallat, CEO of Beyond AI, will discuss what the five main drivers are in Artificial Intelligence that could shape the future of the Internet of Things. AJ Abdallat is CEO of Beyond AI. He has over 20 years of management experience in the fields of artificial intelligence, sensors, instruments, devices and software for telecommunications, life sciences, environmental monitoring, process...
The increasing popularity of the Internet of Things necessitates that our physical and cognitive relationship with wearable technology will change rapidly in the near future. This advent means logging has become a thing of the past. Before, it was on us to track our own data, but now that data is automatically available. What does this mean for mHealth and the "connected" body? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Lisa Calkins, CEO and co-founder of Amadeus Consulting, will discuss the impact of wea...
There is an ever-growing explosion of new devices that are connected to the Internet using “cloud” solutions. This rapid growth is creating a massive new demand for efficient access to data. And it’s not just about connecting to that data anymore. This new demand is bringing new issues and challenges and it is important for companies to scale for the coming growth. And with that scaling comes the need for greater security, gathering and data analysis, storage, connectivity and, of course, the...
We’ve worked with dozens of early adopters across numerous industries and will debunk common misperceptions, which starts with understanding that many of the connected products we’ll use over the next 5 years are already products, they’re just not yet connected. With an IoT product, time-in-market provides much more essential feedback than ever before. Innovation comes from what you do with the data that the connected product provides in order to enhance the customer experience and optimize busi...
The IoTs will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, will demonstrate how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and share the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the development proc...
Increasing IoT connectivity is forcing enterprises to find elegant solutions to organize and visualize all incoming data from these connected devices with re-configurable dashboard widgets to effectively allow rapid decision-making for everything from immediate actions in tactical situations to strategic analysis and reporting. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Shikhir Singh, Senior Developer Relations Manager at Sencha, will discuss how to create HTML5 dashboards that interact with IoT devic...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ericsson has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Ericsson is a world leader in the rapidly changing environment of communications technology – providing equipment, software and services to enable transformation through mobility. Some 40 percent of global mobile traffic runs through networks we have supplied. More than 1 billion subscribers around the world re...
So, you bought into the current machine learning craze and went on to collect millions/billions of records from this promising new data source. Now, what do you do with them? Too often, the abundance of data quickly turns into an abundance of problems. How do you extract that "magic essence" from your data without falling into the common pitfalls? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Natalia Ponomareva, Software Engineer at Google, will provide tips on how to be successful in large scale machine lear...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Klein, CEO and Co-founder of Rachio, will discuss next generation communities that are using IoT to create more sustainable, intelligent communities. One example is Sterling Ranch, a 10,000 home development that – with the help of Siemens – will integrate IoT technology into the community to provide residents with energy and water savings as well as intelligent security. Everything from stop lights to sprinkler systems to building infrastructures will run ef...
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
You deployed your app with the Bluemix PaaS and it's gaining some serious traction, so it's time to make some tweaks. Did you design your application in a way that it can scale in the cloud? Were you even thinking about the cloud when you built the app? If not, chances are your app is going to break. Check out this webcast to learn various techniques for designing applications that will scale successfully in Bluemix, for the confidence you need to take your apps to the next level and beyond.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Fusion, a leading provider of cloud services, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Fusion, a leading provider of integrated cloud solutions to small, medium and large businesses, is the industry's single source for the cloud. Fusion's advanced, proprietary cloud service platform enables the integration of leading edge solutions in the cloud, including cloud...
Digital payments using wearable devices such as smart watches, fitness trackers, and payment wristbands are an increasing area of focus for industry participants, and consumer acceptance from early trials and deployments has encouraged some of the biggest names in technology and banking to continue their push to drive growth in this nascent market. Wearable payment systems may utilize near field communication (NFC), radio frequency identification (RFID), or quick response (QR) codes and barcodes...
SYS-CON Events announced today that DatacenterDynamics has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. DatacenterDynamics is a brand of DCD Group, a global B2B media and publishing company that develops products to help senior professionals in the world's most ICT dependent organizations make risk-based infrastructure and capacity decisions.
The IoT has the potential to create a renaissance of manufacturing in the US and elsewhere. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Florent Solt, CTO and chief architect of Netvibes, will discuss how the expected exponential increase in the amount of data that will be processed, transported, stored, and accessed means there will be a huge demand for smart technologies to deliver it. Florent Solt is the CTO and chief architect of Netvibes. Prior to joining Netvibes in 2007, he co-founded Rift Technol...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Stratoscale, the software company developing the next generation data center operating system, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Stratoscale is revolutionizing the data center with a zero-to-cloud-in-minutes solution. With Stratoscale’s hardware-agnostic, Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) solution to store everything, run anything and scale everywhere...
Angular 2 is a complete re-write of the popular framework AngularJS. Programming in Angular 2 is greatly simplified – now it's a component-based well-performing framework. This immersive one-day workshop at 18th Cloud Expo, led by Yakov Fain, a Java Champion and a co-founder of the IT consultancy Farata Systems and the product company SuranceBay, will provide you with everything you wanted to know about Angular 2.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Men & Mice, the leading global provider of DNS, DHCP and IP address management overlay solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The Men & Mice Suite overlay solution is already known for its powerful application in heterogeneous operating environments, enabling enterprises to scale without fuss. Building on a solid range of diverse platform support,...
Whether your IoT service is connecting cars, homes, appliances, wearable, cameras or other devices, one question hangs in the balance – how do you actually make money from this service? The ability to turn your IoT service into profit requires the ability to create a monetization strategy that is flexible, scalable and working for you in real-time. It must be a transparent, smoothly implemented strategy that all stakeholders – from customers to the board – will be able to understand and comprehe...