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Get rid of bottlenecks

For anyone looking for a good book to read I recommend The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt and Jeff Cox. If you have gone to college for you BBA or MBA it is quite likely you have already read this masterpiece. However, if like most IT professionals you have not gone for a business degree I recommend picking this up immediately. The book is a work of fiction. However, it is done in way to instruct the readers how to become better operations managers. There is also enough suspense to make it a very compelling ‘page-turner’.

I always believe IT professionals should understand operation almost as well as actual operations managers. Understanding how to support your customers means knowing their business. The main focus of an IT department is supporting operations. Therefore IT professionals must understand how operations run, and how it should be running. Many solutions for operations problems can be solved with technology. If operations and IT managers can work together and utilize the same language there are few boundaries which cannot be overcome.

Another reason for IT professionals to read this book is the implementation of the Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints. For those new to IT this theory can summarize what network administrators and engineers do on a daily basis: look for and remove bottlenecks. Goldratt was speaking of business process and operations when laying the foundations for the theory of constraints. However it is very applicable to networking. With the theory of constraints it is a necessity to find the step in operations which goes slower than the steps before and/or after. This is known as the ‘bottleneck’. In IT networking we use this same term for the exact same scenario.

For instance, if there are two locations which have gigabit internal networks. The two networks are connected with 1.5Mbs T1. The T1 would be considered the bottleneck. Having gigabit networks on each side is irrelevant for inter-site traffic because that is constrained to 1.5Mbs. This is a simple example of a network bottleneck.

There are many ways to compensate for this bottleneck. Here are some possible solutions:

  • It may be determined this bottleneck does not affect production, in which case nothing will be done.
  • If the bottleneck is affecting production it may be a simple matter of adding a second T1. This would double the bandwidth to 3Mbs. Chances are the routers being used have a T1 port available and the telco will waive the install of the second T1 if you resign your contract for another 18 to 36 months.
  • If there is non-critical data being exchanged between sites restrict it to off-peak times. Data being backed up over the network can over-consume WAN links. Schedule the backups to occur at night when the network would normally be sitting idle.
  • Implement QOS. Insure that important traffic always gets through. Users may be consuming bandwidth for YouTube videos and the like. Insure your network recognizes and prioritizes important traffic.
  • Upgrade to metro Ethernet. Depending upon where you live metro Ethernet may be available. With metro Ethernet you can get the required amount of bandwidth, and easy add bandwidth as the company grows.

The above solutions were not all inclusive, there are other possible solutions. The key here is to find the bottlenecks in your network, determine if they affect operations, and implement a plan. Bottlenecks are not necessarily always in network gear and circuits. The bottleneck for a slow application may be a server with insufficient memory or processor power.  IT staff with insufficient training in a product can be a support bottleneck. Lack of documentation for a user to utilize software can be a bottleneck.

By reading The Goal I believe IT professionals can look at operations in a whole new light. The key is to take that new understanding and incorporate into daily IT operations. IT professionals who do so fill find their careers soaring higher than they ever expected.

Categories: Networking
  1. February 17, 2013 at 02:35

    Today, I went to the beach with my kids. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4
    year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the shell to her
    ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear.
    She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is totally off topic but I
    had to tell someone!

  2. February 17, 2013 at 02:37

    I want to to thank you for this great read!! I absolutely enjoyed every little bit of it.
    I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff
    you post…

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