US government ditches Verizon for HP as HealthCare.gov gets back on its feet

After the disastrous rollout of HealthCare.gov the website responsible for bringing US President Barrack Obama's signature healthcare reform to the American people, many have been wondering what exactly the administration is going to do to fix the mess. The answer is simple: change providers.

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced that it would be dropping its previous contract with Verizon Communications' Terremark subsidiary in favour of HP's web hosting service.

A spokesperson for Verizon said the company doesn't comment on its relationships with clients, and refused to offer confirmation of the drop.

A HHS spokesperson said the government agency "has begun the necessary activities to transition the data centre to HP," adding that "we are working to ensure a smooth transition between the two contractors."

According to federal contracting records, HHS had awarded $55.4 million (£33.9 million) to Verizon since its contract began in 2011, including an additional contract for $9.4 million (£5.75 million) of extra website capacity this month.

However, multiple outages at the Verizon data centre have added to a number of other challenges to cripple the crucial website.

On 29 October, a storage device in the data centre malfunctioned and outed the website even as HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified to a congressional committee about the troubles surrounding the rollout of the beleaguered site.

This was handy, as Sebelius blamed Verizon for the failures in her testimony, arguing, "It is the Verizon server that failed, not HealthCare.gov."

The goal is apparently to be able to host 50,000 users on the site at any one time.

Web experts have criticised the government for not spending the additional finds required to operate a backup data centre to help with disaster recovery. As difficult as it is to believe, the entire HealthCare.gov site was run out of a single data centre at launch – one that was clearly not even up to the task.

The administration set a deadline to have the website working for the majority of users by the end of November, but key parts of the site are likely to continue to be under construction for a good while after that.

Image: Flickr (Crazy George)