Affordable Care Act and IPv6 – A tale of two protocols

Probably you are not surprised by the title of this blog associating the Affordable Care Act with technology, it would not be the first time this happens. The technological challenges faced by the healthcare.gov site at its launch were heavily publicized. In fact that event was the reason we started monitoring the site on an ongoing basis. In this case however, our observations point to the way technology might be used rather than a poor implementation.

Let us start with a bit of background. If you follow our blogs you know we developed a platform (www.v6sonar.com) to monitor cloud based IT services. We are also big supporters of IPv6 so our platform measures User Experience for a service over both IPv4 and IPv6. We started monitoring www.healthcare.gov from the day it was launched and to credit the engineers who planned and launched it, the site was made available over both IPv4 and IPv6 from day one. This is a good thing not only because it aligns with the OMB requirements but also because adoption in US reach (as of January 16, 2017) 30.35% according to Google (//www.google.com/intl/en/ipv6/statistics.html#tab=per-country-ipv6-adoption&tab=per-country-ipv6-adoption) and 33.2% according to Geoff Huston’s measurements (https://stats.labs.apnic.net/ipv6/).

We baselined the healthcare.gov site, saw that response time over both IPv4 and IPv6 is consistently the same and forgot about it. We forgot about it until January 4th when our platform started sending us alerts about healthcare.gov being impaired over IPv4. After a few notifications we pulled away from the busy startup World and decided to see what was going on.

 

 

Well, we discovered two notable things highlighted in the data captured by our New York agent.

  1. The start of the event correlates with US Congress vote to start the process of repealing the Affordable Care Act:
    1. The consistent behavior across the country shows this not to be a local service issue
    2. The consistent behavior over time (including slight improvements during night hours) shows this not to be a service issue or some sort of DDOS attack
    3. By all accounts this is the effect an significantly increased demand on the site
  2. The response time over IPv6 remained unchanged:
    1. The differences between resources presented over IPv4 vs IPv6 are insignificant
    2. It appears the site was primarily used over IPv4 rather than IPv6.

The preliminary conclusion is that despite 30-32% of US Internet Users having IPv6 access, the folks most interested in the Affordable Care Act are not using IPv6. They might fall into one of these categories:

  • They do not have access to IPv6 because their broadband provider does not offer IPv6 or their business (for those browsing from work) is not enabled for IPv6)
  • They have IPv6 access at home but they lack the service (leased equipment where the provider manages the enablement of IPv6) and they lack knowledge or the equipment (home gateway) to turn it on.

Users are not supposed to be aware of the IP version they use to access a service but in this case, it turns out to be a disadvantage.

More data is needed to draw the definitive conclusions but for now, it seems the run on the Affordable Care site is slowing down. Starting January 11, the slow response is more spurious in nature and the average response time is trending back to baseline.

More to come on this topic but in the meantime, make sure you have IPv6.