Like race car mechanics, IT administrators are always searching for the faulty cog that's making the wheel run slower. In a recent poll, IT managers told SearchWindowsManageability that finding that cranky cog in a computer system is like finding a needle in a haystack. Indeed, they said, IT system complexity is the weakest link that causes performance management breakdowns.
"This stupid maddening race to cram more and more features into software and hardware has to stop," said poll respondent Manu Seif, an IT manager. "Effort should be shifted to making computing systems more user-friendly, more human-friendly!"
Today's systems are so complex that users can't possibly learn how to use them well, respondents said. That's why "there are so many user errors that cause performance problems," said one IT pro. It takes days and weeks to train users to use new software applications effectively, another respondent said. No business can afford to train users as much as is needed, he complained, so "users make mistakes, mostly out of ignorance, and system performance suffers."
Almost any driver can get into a new car and figure out how to operate it in a few minutes, Seif said. The computer user, however, has to know about operating systems, hard disks, RAM, illegal operation errors, and "50 different ways of accessing and/or retrieving information," he said. Try to write, print, and e-mail a letter on a computer system you haven't used before, he suggested. "I guarantee you won't be able to in a short time!"
The complexity of performance management processes also flummoxes IT pros. "Performance is a big animal, and there are so many little factors that go into tuning a system to perform well," said IT administrator Shahin Yousefi.
So, IT managers have to know all the short cuts. For example, Yousefi said, performing a "SELECT" query against a table takes more time and is not as effective as performing a query that says "SELECT Column1, Column2," and so on. "Once you isolate many little things like this and implement them into your systems, the combined benefit is noticeable," he said. "However, the individual benefit of each of these is hard to detect."
System complexity also causes another weak link that sabotages performance: software and hardware compatibility issues. Dealing with performance-sapping compatibility issues between old and new software and hardware takes up too much time, said IT manager Roger Coroy and other respondents. It's hard to optimize performance on systems when components weren't designed to work together in the first place.
Finally, the success of virus attacks in creating system performance gridlock can also be traced to system complexity, respondents said. Complex systems give hackers more entryways and make it impossible for antivirus software to cover all the bases.
"Norton AV keeps us reasonably protected, but we get unacceptable number of false positives, a fair number of viruses which it cannot deal with and has to quarantine," said IT professional Peter Barker.
Overall, this poll's respondents believe that simpler systems would lead to better performance and less time spent on performance management. Vendors need to make hardware and software that's easy to implement, deploy, understand, use, and manage, they said. Seif summed it up: "Simplify! Simplify! Simplify!"
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