First-day funk as parliament’s new website fails initial public test

The new site fell prey to a hardware fault, says developer company

Parliament’s brand-new website suffered an embarrassing failure on its first day, despite performing faultlessly in tests, according to a spokesman for the company that developed the website, Terabyte.

The new site, www.parliament.nz, fell prey to a hardware fault in the machine that balances and switches the site’s workload between its two web and database servers, says Doug Hanna.

Under its first day’s load, it started “flip-flopping” rapidly between the primary and the backup server, he says.

The operators took down the backup server, thinking this would temporarily relieve the situation, but the flip-flopping continued, only now it was also directing the workload to a non-functioning server half the time. Users stood a 50/50 chance of getting an immediate response or no response, says Hanna.

The failure was eventually traced to a hardware fault in the load-balancing processor.

The set-up had been in place for about three weeks before the launch, Hanna says. “And, we’ve had the full website up privately for about two weeks with no problems. Then, as soon as we went public, it failed.”

Terabyte built the site using Microsoft .net technology, MS Content Management Server and MS SQL Server hosted on an IIS platform.

Users getting no response could still use the old parliament website, www.parliament.govt.nz, that will be kept running until Terabyte is absolutely sure the new site is problem-free, says Hanna.

The parliament.nz domain has been established as a new second-level domain (2LD), on a par with .co.nz or .net.nz. A www. domain has been created within the “parliament” 2LD, in a similar fashion to www.govt.nz. This is not an example of a single-level .nz domain name structure, though InternetNZ has discussed such a simplification.

The choice of domain name emphasises parliament’s independence from government, says Parliamentary Service group manager for information and knowledge, Moira Fraser.

“The new site had to integrate three separate websites — Office of the Clerk, the Parliamentary Service and Speaker of the House — into a more user--friendly framework,” says Fraser.

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