Friday, February 13, 2009

The failure of big IT projects

A new NHS computerised medical records system on trial at a London hospital has been criticised by a hospital boss for causing "heartache and hard work".

I have a friend who was contracting for EDS (who are famous for burning tax-payers dollars and never delivering on time/budget) before they pulled out of the NHS unified records project. He told me that they were developing their own VPN solution to use between hospitals for it. Now VPN isn't a problem that needs to be solved - there are complete and secure implementations in both open and closed-source flavours. VPN is done - but in a sense it didn't surprise me. Big organisations are famous for having that not invented here mindset. At the BBC I saw wheels being re-invented often because "..nobody understands what we do as well as us". Truth to tell there aren't many problems that haven't been cracked a few times already and designing your own VPN protocols (or whatever) never brings you the benefits that using a ready made solution will give - many people will have hammered hard on it and it's likely to work (and even more so if it's open-source where thousands of eyes have looked at the code - very important for security applications).
If you want a robust, distributed database that can serve thousands of look-ups per second on commodity user hardware then I would suggest that you maybe talk to Google!

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