Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Stackify Blog, Aruna Ravichandran, Dalibor Siroky, Kevin Jackson, PagerDuty Blog

Related Topics: Microservices Expo, Java IoT, ColdFusion, Containers Expo Blog, Machine Learning , Apache

Microservices Expo: Article

Hunting Down the “Herbies” In Your House

Applying the Theory of Constraints to the Management of IT

Recently some colleagues and I were discussing applications of the Theory of Constraints to various process and financial management scenarios.  In our current  economic environment in which organizations are constantly being pushed to new expectations of efficiency, the effective use of all available resources is absolutely critical to the success of an organization.  As we were considering some of the themes from Eli Goldratt’s classic business novel “The Goal” (right around the first anniversary of the author’s passing, coincidentally), I began to see the applicability of Goldratt’s work to the management of enterprise information technology much more clearly.  Although the focus of Goldratt’s seminal novel is primarily targeted at manufacturing, the discussion got me thinking about how well IT professionals embrace similar concepts to focus on eliminating bottlenecks in heterogenous systems and monitoring the various functional components of an application, solution, or environment.

For those unfamiliar with the book, it is the tale of a manufacturing manager who is assigned the dubious honor of fixing persistent production problems at his factory.  In a style that was very unique at the time of publication (1984), Goldratt provides instruction on the Theory of Constraints and methods for dealing with process problems by telling a story rather than rote or more traditional step by step instruction.  One of the core lessons of “The Goal” is provided via a boy in the protagonist’s scout troop named Herbie.  While out on a wilderness hike with the troop, our hero is constantly frustrated by the fact that the scouts seem to have a total and complete inability to stay together.  As the chaperone in charge of ensuring that these young men all come out of the woods safe and sound, he is understandably annoyed.  He eventually notices that Herbie, whose physical condition is less than optimal compared to his peers, is the bottleneck.  Herbie is always bringing up the rear and slowing down the entire troop.  Our hero attempts various methods such as lightening Herbie’s pack, but ultimately discovers that the optimal way to keep the troop together is to let Herbie be the leader leader of the hike.  This ensures that no one will ever hike faster than Herbie and that the group will stay together.  And therein lies one of the core tenets - the slowest activity in any process is the biggest determinant of the overall process cycle time.  Or, the total length of time required to execute any multi step process is most impacted by the length of time required to execute the longest-running task.  This observation is the spark that inspires our hero to analyze the activities in his manufacturing process flows, identify the bottlenecks, and work to optimize and eliminate them with the help of those who actually perform the work.  As the operations at his factory improve, he also fixes his marriage and becomes a better father, but such are the elements of drama (hence the “business novel”) and the side benefits of enjoying one’s vocation.

So what do out of shape scouts and manufacturing process flows have to do with the implementation of enterprise class information technology solutions?  I recall back in the 90s as the middleware market was being developed that there was a great deal of focus on speeds and feeds when comparing message oriented middleware (MOM) software solutions.  The competitive focus was on which solution provider could move message payloads from point A to point B (across networks and operating system platforms) the fastest.  As this technology was the foundation for many business process automation solutions upon which hybrid applications could be built by serializing cross platform components of executable business logic, the point seemed to be that the technology that delivered message payloads fastest would also enable the overall process to execute the fastest.  By extension, this speed of execution would provide a competitive advantage for one’s business.  Those implementing these sorts of solutions quickly realized that if the applications that were processing the messages were inefficiently written or being hosted on inadequate computing platforms, the speed at which the information was delivered to the participant applications made no difference.  This is because the overall process execution time was always determined by the business software applications that were providing actual business function at the endpoints rather than the speed at which the information could be delivered to those endpoint applications.  This is true with humans as well of course, because one cannot process information faster by simply DVRing their favorite news channel and watching it at 2x the speed.


Fast forward to the 21st century and we still see similar issues and impressions that have to be addressed.  According to Jake Gibson, VP of Customer Operations at LightEdge Solutions, “We often see situations in which there are requests for networking speeds that far surpass the performance of the business applications.  This enables us to have additional conversations about true performance requirements in the context of customers’ businesses and provide more appropriate solutions.”

 

Like any business process or heterogenous system, IT solutions have their share of potential bottlenecks and optimization opportunities.  When we take into account the complexity of our networks, storage systems, and computing hardware and combine it with the configuration and tuning options available in the operating systems, database management systems, application servers, and integration middleware, we can truly develop an appreciation for the depth of infrastructure skills required of the modern IT professional.  Add to that the specialized processors, business applications (both custom written and those supported by vendors), and other specialized capabilities such as business process management and analytics that are hosted by the  computing infrastructure and the many challenges that can arise with performance issues start to become apparent.  And don’t forget the need to securely deliver a great deal of functionality to customers and employees via mobile devices that are not located within the corporation’s facilities...

 

IT professionals will find bottlenecks and performance issues such as these easier to address as the burgeoning market for workload optimized and expert integrated systems develops.  Pre-configured hardware and software solutions that have been tuned and optimized for specific business requirements, applications, and workload characteristics will eliminate much of the guesswork and troubleshooting required to squeeze additional performance out of solutions.  Some of these solutions are available today from leading enterprise-class solution providers and many more will be released in the near future.  Additionally, as more solution providers expand the capabilities that can be provided to enterprise customers via cloud computing technologies, some of the burden will be shifted to the providers themselves.

 

The vast majority of the time all of the components in today’s complex information systems function quite well together and the business gets value out of its investment in information technology.  But full optimization of the modern IT environment, or the “hunting of the Herbies” when performance issues do arise, requires coordinated and proactive monitoring of the environment and an in-depth understanding of the overall systems architecture.  And that requires investment in the IT professionals who bring it all together for the business.

More Stories By Douglas Allen

Douglas W. Allen is a husband and father from Des Moines, IA and the owner of the winningtechnicalsales.com blog, dedicated to the sales engineering profession. As a technical sales manager at IBM, his team is dedicated to helping customers design and deploy enterprise-class business technology solutions that enable those customers to make money, save money, or mitigate risk. He is currently on a campaign to convince the world that the past, present, and future of rock and roll recently came out of New Jersey in the form of The Gaslight Anthem. He can be reached at www.linkedin.com/in/douglaswallen.

@MicroservicesExpo Stories
How is DevOps going within your organization? If you need some help measuring just how well it is going, we have prepared a list of some key DevOps metrics to track. These metrics can help you understand how your team is doing over time. The word DevOps means different things to different people. Some say it a culture and every vendor in the industry claims that their tools help with DevOps. Depending on how you define DevOps, some of these metrics may matter more or less to you and your team.
For many of us laboring in the fields of digital transformation, 2017 was a year of high-intensity work and high-reward achievement. So we’re looking forward to a little breather over the end-of-year holiday season. But we’re going to have to get right back on the Continuous Delivery bullet train in 2018. Markets move too fast and customer expectations elevate too precipitously for businesses to rest on their laurels. Here’s a DevOps “to-do list” for 2018 that should be priorities for anyone w...
If testing environments are constantly unavailable and affected by outages, release timelines will be affected. You can use three metrics to measure stability events for specific environments and plan around events that will affect your critical path to release.
In a recent post, titled “10 Surprising Facts About Cloud Computing and What It Really Is”, Zac Johnson highlighted some interesting facts about cloud computing in the SMB marketplace: Cloud Computing is up to 40 times more cost-effective for an SMB, compared to running its own IT system. 94% of SMBs have experienced security benefits in the cloud that they didn’t have with their on-premises service
DevOps failure is a touchy subject with some, because DevOps is typically perceived as a way to avoid failure. As a result, when you fail in a DevOps practice, the situation can seem almost hopeless. However, just as a fail-fast business approach, or the “fail and adjust sooner” methodology of Agile often proves, DevOps failures are actually a step in the right direction. They’re the first step toward learning from failures and turning your DevOps practice into one that will lead you toward even...
DevOps is under attack because developers don’t want to mess with infrastructure. They will happily own their code into production, but want to use platforms instead of raw automation. That’s changing the landscape that we understand as DevOps with both architecture concepts (CloudNative) and process redefinition (SRE). Rob Hirschfeld’s recent work in Kubernetes operations has led to the conclusion that containers and related platforms have changed the way we should be thinking about DevOps and...
The goal of Microservices is to improve software delivery speed and increase system safety as scale increases. Microservices being modular these are faster to change and enables an evolutionary architecture where systems can change, as the business needs change. Microservices can scale elastically and by being service oriented can enable APIs natively. Microservices also reduce implementation and release cycle time and enables continuous delivery. This paper provides a logical overview of the Mi...
While walking around the office I happened upon a relatively new employee dragging emails from his inbox into folders. I asked why and was told, “I’m just answering emails and getting stuff off my desk.” An empty inbox may be emotionally satisfying to look at, but in practice, you should never do it. Here’s why. I recently wrote a piece arguing that from a mathematical perspective, Messy Desks Are Perfectly Optimized. While it validated the genius of my friends with messy desks, it also gener...
The next XaaS is CICDaaS. Why? Because CICD saves developers a huge amount of time. CD is an especially great option for projects that require multiple and frequent contributions to be integrated. But… securing CICD best practices is an emerging, essential, yet little understood practice for DevOps teams and their Cloud Service Providers. The only way to get CICD to work in a highly secure environment takes collaboration, patience and persistence. Building CICD in the cloud requires rigorous ar...
The enterprise data storage marketplace is poised to become a battlefield. No longer the quiet backwater of cloud computing services, the focus of this global transition is now going from compute to storage. An overview of recent storage market history is needed to understand why this transition is important. Before 2007 and the birth of the cloud computing market we are witnessing today, the on-premise model hosted in large local data centers dominated enterprise storage. Key marketplace play...
The cloud revolution in enterprises has very clearly crossed the phase of proof-of-concepts into a truly mainstream adoption. One of most popular enterprise-wide initiatives currently going on are “cloud migration” programs of some kind or another. Finding business value for these programs is not hard to fathom – they include hyperelasticity in infrastructure consumption, subscription based models, and agility derived from rapid speed of deployment of applications. These factors will continue to...
Some people are directors, managers, and administrators. Others are disrupters. Eddie Webb (@edwardawebb) is an IT Disrupter for Software Development Platforms at Liberty Mutual and was a presenter at the 2016 All Day DevOps conference. His talk, Organically DevOps: Building Quality and Security into the Software Supply Chain at Liberty Mutual, looked at Liberty Mutual's transformation to Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery, and DevOps. For a large, heavily regulated industry, this task ...
Following a tradition dating back to 2002 at ZapThink and continuing at Intellyx since 2014, it’s time for Intellyx’s annual predictions for the coming year. If you’re a long-time fan, you know we have a twist to the typical annual prediction post: we actually critique our predictions from the previous year. To make things even more interesting, Charlie and I switch off, judging the other’s predictions. And now that he’s been with Intellyx for more than a year, this Cortex represents my first ...
"Grape Up leverages Cloud Native technologies and helps companies build software using microservices, and work the DevOps agile way. We've been doing digital innovation for the last 12 years," explained Daniel Heckman, of Grape Up in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The Toyota Production System, a world-renowned production system is based on the "complete elimination of all waste". The "Toyota Way", grounded on continuous improvement dates to the 1860s. The methodology is widely proven to be successful yet there are still industries within and tangential to manufacturing struggling to adopt its core principles: Jidoka: a process should stop when an issue is identified prevents releasing defective products
Defining the term ‘monitoring’ is a difficult task considering the performance space has evolved significantly over the years. Lately, there has been a shift in the monitoring world, sparking a healthy debate regarding the definition and purpose of monitoring, through which a new term has emerged: observability. Some of that debate can be found in blogs by Charity Majors and Cindy Sridharan.
We seem to run this cycle with every new technology that comes along. A good idea with practical applications is born, then both marketers and over-excited users start to declare it is the solution for all or our problems. Compliments of Gartner, we know it generally as “The Hype Cycle”, but each iteration is a little different. 2018’s flavor will be serverless computing, and by 2018, I mean starting now, but going most of next year, you’ll be sick of it. We are already seeing people write such...
It’s “time to move on from DevOps and continuous delivery.” This was the provocative title of a recent article in ZDNet, in which Kelsey Hightower, staff developer advocate at Google Cloud Platform, suggested that “software shops should have put these concepts into action years ago.” Reading articles like this or listening to talks at most DevOps conferences might make you think that we’re entering a post-DevOps world. But vast numbers of organizations still struggle to start and drive transfo...
Let's do a visualization exercise. Imagine it's December 31, 2018, and you're ringing in the New Year with your friends and family. You think back on everything that you accomplished in the last year: your company's revenue is through the roof thanks to the success of your product, and you were promoted to Lead Developer. 2019 is poised to be an even bigger year for your company because you have the tools and insight to scale as quickly as demand requires. You're a happy human, and it's not just...
"Opsani helps the enterprise adopt containers, help them move their infrastructure into this modern world of DevOps, accelerate the delivery of new features into production, and really get them going on the container path," explained Ross Schibler, CEO of Opsani, and Peter Nickolov, CTO of Opsani, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.