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Oregon Suing Oracle Over Obamacare Site, But Still Needs Oracle's Help 116

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-hate-you-now-help-me dept.
jfruh writes Oracle and the state of Oregon are in the midst of a particularly nasty set of lawsuits over the botched rollout of Oregon's health care exchange site, with Oregon claiming that Oracle promised an "out-of-the-box solution" and Oracle saying that Oregon foolishly attempted to act as its own systems integrator. But one aspect of the dispute helps illustrate an unpleasant reality of these kinds of disputes: even as Oregon tries to extract damages from Oracle, it still needs Oracle's help to salvage the site.
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Oregon Suing Oracle Over Obamacare Site, But Still Needs Oracle's Help

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  • by BringsApples (3418089) on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @10:12PM (#47822359)
    Then I guess all of the folks of Oregon will just have to grow cannabis and self medicate till this thing blows over.
    • by thieh (3654731)
      Or the guys at Oracle will start selling cannabis as medicine in Oregon until they fix it.
      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        Or the guys at Oracle will stop aking cannabis and their reliability goes up.

      • Or the guys at Oracle will start selling cannabis as medicine in Oregon until they fix it.

        That's it! No more weed for developers until it's fixed!

    • by Virtucon (127420)

      With booze and gambling and hookers?

      • With booze and gambling and hookers?

        ...And forget the booze and gambling.

        -Bender

      • by F34nor (321515)

        Portland is almost unique in the U.S. as we allow the combination of vices, all nude and liqueur in the same venue. Granted the stripper is going to be a PhD. candidate in women's studies with two kids but... TITTIES!

        • And Oregon is (almost) unique in not letting you pump you own gas.

          You can do the full Monty. Just can't pump it up.

          • by Virtucon (127420)

            I have a funny story about that, but that's for my grandkids. Needless to say I had one gas station attendant puzzled as to where the gas tank was on my van.

          • It's an oddity, but damn it's easy to get used to - especially in the winter.

            The sad part is when you travel. I remember sitting at a gas station for something like three minutes in Atlanta... until my wife prompted me that I had to get out and pump my own damn gas.

    • by F34nor (321515)

      It's the other state to the north.

      We should have gone with the Metal Toad linux offer and owned our own exchange.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rsilvergun (571051)
      Or they could just hire programmers directly. The gov't doesn't have to just hand out juicy contracts, it can employe people directly. But as everyone who's been completely ignoring the increased efficiency of the DMV and post office knows it's scientifically impossible for the gov't to do that. That and it's still 1950 and Leave it to Beaver is in it's 3rd season...
      • r they could just hire programmers directly. The gov't doesn't have to just hand out juicy contracts, it can employe people directly.

        Ever looked at Civil Service payscales?

        If so, and if you want that sort of salary, then the government is willing to hire you. My wife works for a company that does work for the Feds, and was offered the chance to come to work directly for the feds.

        Had to turn it down, since it included a substantial paycut....

        • There is a flip-side to that, though: The benefits are astounding for anyone who knows how to navigate the system.

          Example? My father retired 3 years ago from the VA as a biomed engineer. His pay wasn't that great (though in Arkansas it was well above average given local cost-of-living). The real benefits came in when he was able to 'buy up' a full military retirement from his tour in Vietnam, add his full 30+ year retirement from the VA, and now pulls in something like $6k/mo in pensions after taxes... and

    • by Nkwe (604125)

      Then I guess all of the folks of Oregon will just have to grow cannabis and self medicate till this thing blows over.

      We have to wait until November [wikipedia.org] to decide if this is a legal option or not. Of course there is a segment of the population not willing to wait...

      • Depends if you have a license or not - $200 and a doc's note is pretty much all you need, then you're pretty much off to the races if you're growing for yourself. IF you're on disability, the $200 is discounted substantially (my in-laws had a license... it was weird going to their house for the first time and seeing ganja *trees* growing right next to their house... okay, maybe not real trees, but these bastards were 12' tall.)

        Then again, if you don't want to do the paperwork, Vancouver, WA is only like 20

  • Mistake #1 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by maz2331 (1104901) on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @10:12PM (#47822361)

    Using Oracle. Even their flagship DBMS product is a nightmare to configure and try to get decent performance out of - unless one hires a 6-figure DBA to constantly babysit the damn thing.

    • What is the better choice?
      • Pin and paper with filing cabinets. Old tech, but cheaper and it works.

        • by Virtucon (127420)

          I was thinking chisel and stone tablets. Much more durable than paper. Less chance for data loss except if you drop them.

        • by rossdee (243626)

          "Pin and paper with filing cabinets. Old tech, but cheaper and it works."

          Do you mean pen and paper?

          Anyway while it might work for keeping records, its hard to do a website that way.

          • Yes, pen, I had Personal Identification Number on the brain today, but I digress...

            it's hard to do a website that way.

            That's the whole point ;). When the tool because more of a monster than the actual problem (healthcare) you're trying to address in the first place, that's a problem.

          • by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @11:04PM (#47822613) Journal
            No, this is healthcare we're talking about. Pin and paper. Use the pin to prick your finger, and sign the paper.
            • No, this is healthcare we're talking about.

              No, this is health INSURANCE we're talking about.

              They're related, but not identical.

          • by thegarbz (1787294)

            "Pin and paper with filing cabinets. Old tech, but cheaper and it works."

            Do you mean pen and paper?

            Forgive him, he's from New Zaland ... I mean New Zealand.

      • Re:Mistake #1 (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @10:42PM (#47822509)

        What is the better choice?

        That 6 figure DBA is just as qualified to maintain any of the free alternatives. So why pay Oracle?

        I maintain an Oracle app/DB and they're deprecating some major functionality and refuse to support older versions that do have it, so I'm supposed to come up with alternatives. I strongly favor an open/free alternative. My management came to me and said "But how do we get support?!?!" to which I replied "We haven't had support for over 10yrs, why start now?"

        • by Anonymous Coward

          What is the better choice?

          That 6 figure DBA is just as qualified to maintain any of the free alternatives. So why pay Oracle?

          I maintain an Oracle app/DB and they're deprecating some major functionality and refuse to support older versions that do have it, so I'm supposed to come up with alternatives. I strongly favor an open/free alternative. My management came to me and said "But how do we get support?!?!" to which I replied "We haven't had support for over 10yrs, why start now?"

          Yeah, right. Why don't you trying setting up shared-storage active-active clusters with ANY of the "free" alternatives? PostgreSQL? Nope. Doesn't do active-active, and doesn't do shared storage.

          Of course, even setting up the best PostgreSQL can do - active w/ hot standby via replication - is time consuming and anything but "free". And nevermind the fact that the "clustering" solution that sits on top of an active/hot-standby PostgreSQL cluster - pgpool II - is an utter turd that just plain doesn't work

          • "Yeah, right. Why don't you trying setting up shared-storage active-active clusters with ANY of the "free" alternatives? "

            Yes. That's why Google is Oracles biggest customer! Without Oracle you just can't do it!

        • So in terms of simplicity to configure and also in terms of getting good performance you would recommend either MYSQL or Postgre?
      • Re:Mistake #1 (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @10:45PM (#47822527)

        What is the better choice?

        There are many better choices. There are fifty states, and Oregon's website is widely regarded as the worst, despite spending far more than almost any other state.

        Better choice #1: Spend $0, and just use the federal site. More than half the states are doing this, and none have regretted it. There is no rational reason for each state to run their own site.

        Better choice #2: Use a small lean team of state employees, so they have skin in the game because promotions and raises depend on their success. Starve them of resources, so they have no choice but to keep it simple and focus on basic functionality. This is what Kentucky did. They spent 3% of what Oregon spent. Oregon ended up with the worst site. Kentucky's is widely considered the best.

        Really bad choice: Use a contractor, that has a vested interested in a broken and bloated site, that needs lots of continuing maintenance.

        Absolute worst possible choice: Use a contractor with a long and horrible track record of late deliveries and busted budgets. I have never EVER heard of anyone that used Oracle as a contractor and was happy with the result. Using Oracle is like buying a book from Amazon that has 1.000000 stars after 600 reviews.

        • Re:Mistake #1 (Score:4, Insightful)

          by F34nor (321515) on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @11:18PM (#47822677)

          Same reason that Regence BCBS blew $500 million on their REMAC project trying to replace IBM mainframes with PCs. They listened to ass-hat consultants and ignored the nerds. If your computer consultant arrives in a suit and a Lincoln Town Car DON'T FUCKING LISTEN TO HIM.

        • Technically, half of the states have not opted to use the federal site, but have decided to not participate at all. This led the federal government to run the site without the state, although an authority not granted to it by congress under the law.

          • by meglon (1001833)
            Technically they had the choice of opting to make their own, with the default setting to use the federal site if they didn't make their own. Most of those are them federal government haters that decry "big" and "intrusive" federal government, yet continue to suck money out of the feds to make up for their shortcomings in their states economy.... and when they're given the chance to reduce that "intrusiveness," they opt to be lazy bitches and use the feds site.
        • Better choice #1: Spend $0, and just use the federal site. More than half the states are doing this, and none have regretted it. There is no rational reason for each state to run their own site.

          The text of the PPACA and Halbig. That's a pretty big reason

      • by Anonymous Coward

        MongoDB - it's web scale

      • Here we use PostgreSQL in most applications of the government, and it works pretty well.
    • by Virtucon (127420)

      I agree with half of that. The other half is DBAs who configure it to run like shit so they're paid to babysit it.

    • by hsmith (818216)
      Not "A" but "A team of" 6 figure DBAs
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Much as I'm not a fan of Bill gates, mistake #1 is not following the rules of automation:

      The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.

      -- Bill Gates

    • Look, if you can afford to hire the accountants to figure out what it's going to cost for the licenses to cover what you need to do, you can afford the DBA.

  • this is how disputes over large projects between large organizations are almost always handled, nobody takes their ball and goes home just because something is disputed unless one or both organizations have a serious cult of personality issue.
    • Re:normal (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @10:45PM (#47822529)

      this is how disputes over large projects between large organizations are almost always handled, nobody takes their ball and goes home just because something is disputed unless one or both organizations have a serious cult of personality issue.

      Right... I think everyone doing business with Oracle is Simultaneously working on a project, negotiating their contract renewal and in legal preceding. That's how Oracle works.

    • by siddesu (698447)
      I believe that's what they mean by "vendor lock-in". It isn't "normal" in the normal meaning of the word, although it is the norm.
  • by ihtoit (3393327)

    why does it need a court case to define contract terms? It's OOTB or it's something which requires a vendor integrator. Which is it? What does the advertising say? Why did Oregon agree to the contract without reading it first? I'm not going to buy a car until I've taken it round the fucking block, okay?

    • by Virtucon (127420)

      It's a contract dispute as alleged by Oregon: fraud and poor performance. A court trial in this case would be warranted if the parties couldn't work it out amicably. Having dealt with State and Federal contracts I tell you that some of the deliverables stated in contracts leave huge holes. The vendors more often than not can't change them and so eventually you get to a point where either the customer is happy or they withhold payment or sue you because their nebulous requirements weren't met.

      • Re:ok (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Noah Haders (3621429) on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @10:53PM (#47822565)
        it's a shame oracle has never done a state or federal contract before; otherwise, they would know more about how to write a contract and scope of work. I'm sure the next time will go smoother!
        • by Virtucon (127420)

          Oh come on I know your kidding there but sometimes the customer insists on vague specs. It's also mostly about the lowest cost bidder so they probably had a small team in the US, glad-handers and an offshore team doing the actual work. Obviously Oregon isn't happy about it and it's probably clear that Oracle feels they did a great job.

          • it's a good idea for contractor to write a good contract.
            • by Virtucon (127420)

              Contractors usually don't write the contracts, it's usually up to the customer to do that and the contractor to agree to it and amend as necessary. After all it's the customer's requirements, not the contractors that are trying to be met.

              • no but contractors negotiate and sign contracts. the fault is their own.
                • by Virtucon (127420)

                  And if there's a big hole in the contract that works in favor of them, would they point it out to the customer? Not hardly. Shit if I had a contract that just paid me for no deliverables or vague delivery requirements I'd be sitting pretty because you can easily point out to the customer that you met their requirements as stated. Clearly Oregon fell asleep here and I don't feel bad for either party. Politicians right now are just trying to cover their asses in the fact that they let a contract out to a

          • But Oregon probably had a bunch if certified business analysts [iiba.org] collect and write all the requirements in a water tight manner. If they used certified BA's (maybe they were ITIL certified) the requirements would have been perfectly clear.

            But seriously, if Oracle can show that they met the requirements as written, the mess is on Oregon's head. I have seen too many BA's who don't know how to get to the details or how to document requirements properly. Too many bullet pointed excel spreadsheet business require

            • by Virtucon (127420)

              or maybe Oracle is more shrewd at business than the State of Oregon? I think that's the reality here.

            • by Dastardly (4204)

              And, on top of that is the simple truth that most of the time no one knows what they actually want until they see it. So, the exercise of writing requirements for any significant piece of software is an exercise in writing requirements that are at least 50% wrong and even worse having no idea which 50% is wrong. You then put those into a contract and get the wrongness locked in, since changes costs money and have a pain in the ass process to process to get approved. Then, add government contracting which

        • by F34nor (321515)

          No Oracle's contract is the fucking bomb, it did not stipulate a working end product. Oregon's attorneys should be paraded through the streets and have rotten fruit thrown at them.

          • Re:ok (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Noah Haders (3621429) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @12:18AM (#47822845)
            i was shopping for a developer company to make a public website DB thing. I was getting all sort of stupid responses. One firm bragged that they use "waterfall", which means they would sign on to do $X worth of work but would not agree to deliverables because it's fluid and agile. is this what the industry's like? lactarded.
            • by Kjella (173770)

              i was shopping for a developer company to make a public website DB thing. I was getting all sort of stupid responses. One firm bragged that they use "waterfall", which means they would sign on to do $X worth of work but would not agree to deliverables because it's fluid and agile. is this what the industry's like? lactarded.

              On the other hand, I know many companies that have had huge losses on fixed bid projects because a seemingly innocent scope turned out to be a bear trap or because there's no customer incentive to ensure progress, help with clarification, dispute unspecified things such as looks or button texts or tooltips or whatever and in general avoid the most absurd and time-consuming interpretation of the requirements, not to mention all the time spent arguing over them. To compare it to the construction industry it's

        • True story - I once worked for a place that was going to bid on a State Government contract. The requirements had been gathered and I was asked to put together an estimate of effort. So I did and the bid was put forth - at exactly half the amount of time I had estimated it would take. The company won the bid and proceeded to lose their shirt on the implementation.

          Unfortunately this sort of crap happens all the time in large scale software projects. The salespeople will tell you that if you don't put in the

      • by ihtoit (3393327)

        I should really look at what other states have done and how they've come out of it, from what I hear though (ie pretty much nothing) they've done OK. They've also not done business with Oracle.

        • by Virtucon (127420)

          It could probably be safe to assume that other states have much better legal teams and requirements people.

          • by ihtoit (3393327)

            I would concede that, certainly. On the flipside, Oregon's planners might just be miserly cunts with the tech budget...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      'm not going to marry a girl until I've taken her round the fucking block, okay?

  • How in the fuck is someone going to fix their site without the help of the guilty party?

    Option 1: Delete all, start over
    Option 2: Oracle fixes whatever went wrong in the other states

    One option is really obvious, the other is expensive. We should all shit down Chris Kanaracus's neck for this.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    A lot of folks sue Oracle.

    When you charge a lot of money then over-promise and under-deliver, it's inevitable.

  • Oracle wouldn’t be my first choice but it sounds like they put it up for a bidding process and when everyone saw how complicated the project was, Oracle’s the only one that hung in there.”

    It’s hard to judge the quality from the outside, but if you look at their front end website, there are a lot of things they didn’t do. When you look at their technology practices, even the ones we can see from the outside, it’s obvious they didn’t put their ‘
  • Trusting in Oracle (or any other company of that kind) is your first mistake. When you realize that mistake, you sue Oracle. [slashdot.org] Well and good. Now you want to salvage the mess that Oracle made, and you need their help? That is even more foolish. Why should Oracle help you now? Just give it up already, swallow the cost (and the pride) you already paid, and go on the Federal site.
  • For some reason companies and individuals believe they can just jump right into ACA and develop a website that can meet all the requirements. That is not the case what so ever. Integrated Eligibility systems have been around for 2 decades, and there are teams that specialize in them. Just because it is a website, doesn't mean it is easy. You have historical legation that you must understand, then you have state specific customization on gray areas of the law.

    These systems can range from 500k to 6 mil
  • And just forgo the messiness of charging filthy lucre for anything at all. In Oregon you should be able to walk into any hospital or doctor's office and get whatever you need, instantly for no charge, Just double or triple everyone's taxes to pay for it. What's the big deal.

    • You do realize that countries with similar approaches to medicine all spend a whole lot less per capita on health care than we do, don't you?

  • by Grand Facade (35180) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @12:41PM (#47827249)

    To hire an industry coordinator but Kitzhauber let the clowns do it in house.

    Oracle wrote a letter to them warning of potential problems without proper project management.

    Oracle was only contracted for limited aspects of the project "time and materials".

    Oregon (Kitzhauber) needs to cut it's losses and pull the plug on "Cover Oregon".
    I think they think it is some kind of honey pot they are going to skim revenue from, but so far all they have done is squander millions of my tax dollars for something the feds already provide.

  • They should settle out of court. Both sides are guilty of multiple questionable practices. Making it public damages the reputation of both sides and slows fixes.

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