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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Performance: Déjà Vu All Over Again

Teamquest ITSO ProcessA few days ago, an email from TeamQuest offered me a whitepaper on The Renaissance of Performance & Capacity Management in the 21st Century. The email points out that anyone involved in IT for a reasonable amount of time understands that the IT industry is cyclical and says that a data center renaissance is coming full circle.

This got my attention, and not only because it is redundant (coming full circle implies rebirth, the meaning of renaissance). But we've learned to live with worse, especially in direct mail. Anyway, what makes this particular life-cycle so interesting to me is that I have actually participated in it at every stage. Here is my "cliff notes" version of TeamQuest's history of Capacity Planning:

Early 70s: Mainframes were almost the entire IT industry. The hardware manufacturers generated reliable income streams by persuading IT departments to upgrade the entire machine when the CPU hit 70% utilisation. An IT manager typically did not have the tools, the credibility, or the courage to dispute a vendor's recommendation.

Late 70s: Performance and capacity management products allowed IT departments to better understand their mainframe systems. Companies also started relating IT to the business, by subdividing performance metrics into workloads based around applications.

The 80s: The new distributed era forced companies to install performance software just to keep up with new technology.

Early 90s: Capacity management provided the means for testing machine consolidation and disaster recovery scenarios as well as its traditional predictive “what-if?” capabilities. Companies created capacity management departments, software was in abundance and it seemed that performance and capacity management had finally come of age.

Mid 90s onwards: The Web gave birth to eCommerce, and IT became synonymous with the business. Companies now cared more about IT performance than ever before. Hardware was cheap, so money and hardware were thrown at performance problems in a frantic bid to make them go away. Not surprisingly, this rarely worked, and as a result, IT departments have been losing credibility.

Today: We have come full circle. An over abundance of hardware and a general lack of understanding as to how it affects performance means that performance and capacity management is now more important than it has ever been.

This is a pretty good summary of what I have seen happen over the course of my career as a performance specialist. So what's the whitepaper's punch line? It comes in two parts, actually. The first is the need for companies to adopt the approach of IT Service Optimization (ITSO), the five-step TeamQuest process shown in the chart. The goal of ITSO is to consistently meet IT service levels while minimizing infrastructure costs and mitigating risks.

While ITSO is a proprietary label, the principles TeamQuest is promoting are aligned with the ITIL industry standard and the ITSMF organization. These initiatives are designed to address the issues I described in my earlier post on SLM. This entire subject is a familiar one -- it occupies three chapters and 115 pages in my book, and I will be writing about it again in future posts (which will include reference to the second half of TeamQuest's conclusions).

For old hands in this industry, the idea of things 'coming full circle' is always interesting. Not always to be welcomed, but often so. Why? Because rebirth confers instant expertise -- we can reuse our hard-bought experience. The imagination races at the prospect! We will be asked to tackle problems we have already solved, to figure out the answers to questions when we have already seen the exam paper.

Or, foes who defeated us the last time are returning for another round, and this time we will out-fox them. As in Bill Murray's Groundhog Day, if you re-live the worst day of your life enough times, eventually you will get it right. A few of us have been in IT for long enough to relate to this personally. Bring on the renaissance, we're ready!


Blogger ITscout said...

I love your redundant "Déjà Vu All Over Again," especially as your "renaissance is coming full circle."

Tossing another couple of aphorisms your way, performance is a problem only when performance is a problem, and performance is merely a measure of the bottleneck.

As you take us down memory lane, it is important to point out that as much as everything stays the same, it also does change pretty significantly. In the early 70s, most of that mainframe processing as batch. Then applications morphed into CICS, followed by virtual machine-like terminal-based systems, and then client/server interprocess communication applications.

I tend to believe that IT Service Optimization in the future had better be able to evolve in order to accomodate what I expect will be a significant increase in asynchronous processing, a la AJAX or TIBCO.

Chris, you're doing a great job. I'm really happy to see you jumping into the blogging pond...jeff

10/26/2005 07:24:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Loosley said...


Thanks for the feedback! You win the prize for posting the very first comment on Performance Matters. [I believe my attorney (and yours), Mr. Fitzgerald, will be delivering it later today].

You are quite right about the significant change in workloads over the last 30 years. Although my "cliff notes" skimmed over that aspect, the whitepaper does refer to it.

And I agree completely about the importance of asynchronous architectures -- for massive workloads involving distributed or interconnected processing, they are the best way to achieve relatively stable performance.

From a performance point of view, what's also interesting about our history is that over the course of those 30 years, during which Moore's Law has speeded up processing by a factor of about 100,000, volumes have increased massively, the nature of the application processing has changed, and people's expectations have risen. And all these changes have simply cancelled each other out.

In fact, I believe it is an immutable law of performance that Software workloads expand to consume the available computing capacity. Thanks to this, we still HAVE performance problems today. In 1975, who would have predicted you could increase computing power by 5 orders of magnitude, and still need people to work on performance tuning?

And even better, to tackle the problems, the underlying principles you need to understand are the same as ever. Even the management principles are the same. All the "new" frameworks like ITSO and ITIL are simply structured ideas about how to get ourselves better organized to tackle the problems systematically.

What amazing job security!

10/26/2005 08:19:00 PM  

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