is 500M lines of Code!? Geeks Weigh In.


Lines of Code

The claim is the website is 500M lines of code!  At a cost of $600M plus, that’s around 80 cents per line of code.  Rule of thumb for quality code,  the cost for code is in the $20 – $50 per line, the high cost of $50 per line is for the more robust and professional architected applications, where you can get as low as $10 for the hack stuff.

Anecdotal evidence, crudely adjusted for reality, suggests that if you figure your code costs $5 a line you’re lying—or the code is junk.

At $100/line you’re writing software documented almost to DOD standards (HHS and CMS apparently missed that memo).   Most embedded projects wind up somewhere in-between, in the $20-40/line range.

From a Slate article, Getting disciplined about embedded software development,  “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. (Microsoft’s Windows Vista operating system, by the way, contained some 50 million lines of code, and was criticized for being slow and bloated at that.)  And if they’re using the number of lines of code as a metric for progress and project scope, that may be indicative of serious dysfunction in the process.”

From my perspective, running a software development company, the problems HHS and CMS have with their website after 3 plus years is unconscionable.  It smacks of crony capitalism.  First let me say, we do not develop websites.

We develop web applications.  Sophisticated applications for the banking and financial services industry.  One of our customers, does millions of transactions each year.  We capture, image, eSign and store all their  documents in over thousands of locations nationwide.  Imagine if we were down for 5 minutes.  Imagine if there was a security breach to our software or archive.  We would be out of business.

Let me be clear, I’m just speculating, but the website code that they say has to be partially rewritten is probably largely undocumented, poorly written (possibly using contractors from 3rd world countries), without  the proper testing and quality assurance every step of the day.

During a recent crunch time, we used 3 programmers from India on one miniscule project which took them 6 months.  We had to manage them very closely, and their work was still subpar.  We will never do it again.   It’s going to be a nightmare to patch and fix  It should probably be completely rewritten.

Until hundreds of thousands of people have been successfully enrolled, applications processed, insurance plan in effect…with no horror stories regarding security breaches, I personally would not go on their website or even give a phone operator or navigator my personal information, especially a SSN or debit card.  Just my two-cents.

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