When I started in performance and capacity planning, we weren’t all that concerned about money. IT was a cost-center; everyone accepted this and it wasn’t a problem. We had the luxury of extra capacity and loads of time to plan. This approach made the job much easier, but also less valuable to the organization. Our quarterly capacity plans were rarely of interest to anyone. The business would let us buy what we said we needed. It was sort of the same way in our personal lives. Remember going out to dinner or drinks whenever you wanted to? It just seemed to be an easier time.
Ah, for the good old days! Outsourcing and offshoring put IT in the position of competing and cost was the trigger. This inflection began in the late ‘80’s and only got worse as hardware got cheaper, and companies began to undervalue capacity planning. Why pay an expert a high salary AND fund software for them when a server is so cheap? The same challenge will keep arising as long as we don’t change what we do and how we message it. It seems so easy to just buy cheap servers even if that isn’t always the right answer (anyone ever see more CPU capacity thrown at a memory problem?) And now, we are all more cost conscious whether it is entertainment (Netflix versus going out to movies and cooking at home rather than dining out) or necessities (do we really need to go to the doctor – can’t we just gut it out?) Everyone is squeezing the last cent out of their dollars.
Capacity planning is providing cost-effective performance and availability by understanding the relationship between IT resources and business transactions and managing to business KPIs. We are business-enablers. The result of the buy cheap (penny-foolish) approach was the rooms full of under-utilized or even completely unused servers. It might have looked cheaper, but it really wasn’t.
A well-thought-out capacity planning process involves collection of “all the data, all the time,” fed into an automation engine which produces reports, analytics and feeds into modeling and trending engines. This allows for a continuous cycle of analysis and improvement. You aren’t doing the IT equivalent of “making copies;” you spend your valuable time understanding the business and proactively managing the environment to provide the business just-in-time capacity to provide the SLAs they demand. It elevates your job to a new level – you (and everyone else) can see how your work contributes to business success. Of course, it requires a new kind of capacity planner, one who is willing to learn the business, understand the variety of platforms applications run across and who will rise from the weeds of their favorite silo. Don’t be afraid of “beginner’s mind;” this is how we grow, learn and add more value.
“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
- Walt Disney