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The Other (More Important) Bottleneck in IT: IT Failures

Posted by Ken Hoge on May 20, 2016 7:17:49 AM

When I ask customers about bottlenecks, they talk about understanding infrastructure constraints. Your infrastructure is only as fast as your bottleneck – it’s easy to understand. So naturally we are conditioned to find this bottleneck in order to increase throughput at the bottleneck, therefore increasing the throughput of your whole infrastructure system.

I recently read The Phoenix Project, an awesome book about DevOps, which opened my mind to another, more important bottleneck. The book describes that in any IT organization there are 4 types of work:

  • Business projects
  • IT operations projects
  • Change projects
  • And unplanned work projects

Similar to infrastructure, your IT organization is only as fast as the bottleneck. This bottleneck, though, is extremely easy to find - in every organization, unplanned work is the biggest bottleneck because it takes away from everything else. Just last week, I had a customer tell me that their infrastructure went down and they had 30 people in one room trying to fix the issue. That means 30 people are not doing their scheduled jobs, not meeting deadlines for revenue-impacting projects, you get the point!


And that got me thinking, unplanned work is derived from unexpected IT failures and issues. Thinking further, I was able to break it up in to 2 categories: hard failures and soft failures.


  • Hard IT failures are when something breaks—you lose a host, a network uplink goes down things that will happen.
  • Soft IT failures are derived from real-time performance and resource contention issues like congestion, ready queue, or the dreaded storage bottleneck that the industry is more familiar with.


To address the problems of hard failures, I’ve worked with customers to implement higher level solutions like HA mode, stretch clusters, DR sites, and concepts down to redundant power to mitigate the risk of hard failures. For soft failures, I have the awesome job of educating and partnering with customers on the innovative approach of VMTurbo! By using our real-time control system to preventatively mitigate risks around soft failures, you are greatly reducing unplanned work. By addressing the bottleneck in your IT organization, the total output and productivity will increase. And in today’s connected world, that means directly impacting revenue!

The book continues to talk about addressing the bottleneck by identifying projects that can prevent issues at the bottleneck. I found it ironic that the top project for prevention was a monitoring project… I imagine myself as a character in the book as I say, “Bill, why wait until things are broken? With VMTurbo we can prevent performance issues and reduce unplanned work.”

IT DevOps Glorified Janitor Joke

Topics: DevOps

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