Heart Oregon

A Call for an Open Source CoverOregon.com

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This is a copy of an open letter written to the Governor of Oregon regarding the Oregon health exchange. (PDF)


Dear Mr. Kitzhaber,

In light of the recent resignation of the Oregon Health Authority director, Bruce Goldberg and the previous resignation of Cover Oregon director, Rocky King, I feel that I need to speak up.

The goal of launching a website that provides a health care exchange for a state with a total population of 3.8 million people is not overly ambitious and you are right to be angry and disappointed with the results to date. You have indicated, and other agree, that Oracle and the implementation team are to blame for the launch failure. Fundamentally, the failure lies in the dated approach using "Enterprise Ready" software that is difficult to customize and expensive to license. Open source technology is where businesses are heading today and perhaps our state government should follow their lead. It is my fervent belief that if Oregon had used open source technology, the Cover Oregon launch would have been delivered on time at a fraction of the cost.

This perspective is not based on hearsay or on a lack of experience with the complexity of large public projects. Rather, it is backed by Metal Toad’s own personal experience with delivering complex, high-traffic web applications for entities like Sony Pictures Television and the Emmys. With the Emmys, we’ve handled traffic of 2.4 million page views over a span of four hours during their primetime event. Was it challenging to deliver on a drop-dead deadline with a huge spike in traffic? Absolutely. Was there any need for a closed-source technology solution? Not at all. All of the code, databases and even the servers themselves were open source solutions that didn’t cost a dime in licensing.

Governor, like you, the taxpayers and the federal government are clearly disappointed and angry as well. By all accounts Oregon had the worst health care site launch in the states. Including or ignoring licensing cost, we, the citizens of the state of Oregon, paid too much for a website that has failed to deliver even months after the required deadline. By my estimate, my company - or any of a number of other qualified open source savvy companies in the state of Oregon - could have delivered a working healthcare website by the deadline for $10 million dollars or less. That's less than a 10th of what has been spent to-date, and less than what is even currently in dispute with Oracle.

Type is cheap, so I am willing to put my money where my mouth is. With that in mind I am putting an open offer out there: Metal Toad could build a timely new open source based version of CoverOregon that functions properly for a fixed cost of $10 million dollars, or I would refund every cent of it to the Oregon tax payer. My perspective is not a singular one. I believe Oracle is a dated system that will not be able to deliver what Oregon’s citizens require. Let's move forward together on a modern platform flexible enough to accommodate the state’s needs. Governor, I am disappointed and angry about how technology has been selected in this state, and I challenge you to make a change.


Who is Metal Toad? Learn more about this Oregon AWS Consultancy.

Date posted: March 25, 2014


yes! yes! yes! yes! yes! yes! yes!

Sometimes I wish democracy allowed voting directly for certain things like this rather than being representative (and that if that was the case, that I lived in Oregon so that I could vote for something like this)

You and me both, Ryan. I'm hoping that our Governor can move things forward and we can avoid the same pitfalls of vendor lock-in that we've been falling into.

I sincerely hope you get the gig, Joaquin!

Thanks, Lev!

More important than Metal Toad winning any work is making sure that our government stops wasting our money on closed source - and in my opinion inferior solutions. I would bet that the team at ThinkShout as well as other folks around town would also be able to deliver under these same constraints of time and money.

Let's stop wasting time and money (and more money)!


So how would you architect something like the Covered Oregon site with open source technologies? What would be your main feature set and how would you scale up and down?

Hi Regius!

We would of course need to do investigation and testing across a variety of platforms, but I'm thinking it would like be a LAMP stack, with the P in this case standing for Python, rather than PHP. We've architected a number of enterprise-level engagements that have displaced an existing Oracle ERP using this, so it would be the most likely candidate. It *might* be possible to use Drupal as a pure data store, but I don't think it would be the best solution in a case like this with so much heavy write-based traffic.

In any case, Linux gets away from any Windows (or other OS) licensing fees and MySQL - as you know - is a license-free database. Depending on the volume and performance, you could use an alternative No SQL database and/or a lighter weight web server instead of Apache.


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About the Author

Joaquin Lippincott, CEO

Joaquin is a 20+ year technology veteran helping to lead businesses in the move to the Cloud. He frequently speaks on panels about the future of tech ranging from IoT and Machine Learning to the latest innovation in the entertainment industry.  He has helped to modernize software for industry leaders like Sony, Daimler, Intel, the Golden Globes, Siemens Wind Power, ABC, NBC, DC Comics, Warner Brothers & the Linux Foundation.

As the CEO and Founder of Metal Toad, an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner, his primary job is to "get the right people in the room".  This one responsibility is cross-functional and includes both external business development functions as well as internal delegation and leadership development.

A UCLA alumni, he also serves in the community as a Board Member for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce, and Stand for Children Oregon - a public education political advocacy group. As an outspoken advocate for entry-level job creation in tech he helped found the non-profit, P4TH, an organization dedicated to increasing the number of entry-level jobs in the tech industry, and is in the process of organizing an Advisory Board for the Bixel Exchange, a Los Angeles non-profit that provides almost 200 tech internships every year.


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