2016 Rising Star Awards
Brendan R. Neutra
Senior DevOps Engineer, Nava PBC
- By Chase Gunter
- Nov 11, 2016
Before making the transition to federal IT, Brendan Neutra spent several years at Google, working on the infrastructure for the company’s Knowledge Graph and testing the performance of enormous databases. But when HealthCare.gov’s launch faltered, he was recruited to help the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services repair the site, and he took a leave of absence from the search engine giant.
He worked with the HealthCare.gov tech surge team for a few short months, automating tests to bulletproof the site’s software, and then he returned to Google. But he found he couldn’t stay away from public-sector work.
“I kept in touch with [my teammates] and heard they were doing great things,” Neutra said. So in 2015, he joined the federal IT sector full-time, working alongside former tech surge teammates at Nava, a public benefit corporation.
Neutra helped build the Scalable Login System (SLS) for HealthCare.gov, which manages login and account information on a tremendous scale. It has saved CMS more than $120 million in operating costs and resulted in almost zero downtime.
Although SLS worked on the rebooted HealthCare.gov site, “we wanted to see what the platform could really do,” Neutra said.
To demonstrate that SLS was capable of much more, he led an effort to load-test the system at 50 times the peak traffic — a best practice that involves flooding a system with simulated traffic, thousands of concurrent requests or millions of users. Neutra loaded a sandboxed version of SLS with more than 1 billion users, a process that took weeks.
The results of the test were a resounding success: The system was highly responsive and remained error-free, according to Neutra.
SLS “is one of the most stable parts of the whole ecosystem,” he said.
Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.
Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.
Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.
Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter