Eliminating the mean time to innocence

* The network isn't always the cause of application degradation

As is the case with most industries, there is a lot of conventional wisdom that surrounds our industry. By conventional wisdom we mean the set of beliefs that guide how organizations think about Information Technology. The challenge, of course, is that sometimes the conventional wisdom is incorrect and it guides IT organizations in the wrong direction. With that in mind, the next two newsletters will take a look at some of the prevailing conventional wisdom with an eye to whether or not it is indeed accurate.

Before we get started it is important to point out that discussing conventional wisdom is fraught with risk, because IT organizations are highly diverse. Hence, it is difficult to say any one thing is true for all IT organizations. However, it is both possible and helpful to critique the conventional wisdom to identify if the beliefs that guide how we think about IT are primarily fact or primarily fiction.

One of the most prevalent pieces of conventional wisdom that impacts virtually all IT organizations is that the cause of application degradation invariably is the wide area network. This piece of conventional wisdom leads to a new management metric – the mean time to innocence (MTTI). The MTTI is how long it takes for the networking organization to prove it is not the network causing the degradation. Once that task is accomplished, it is common to assume some other component of IT such as the servers must be at fault. This defensive (a.k.a., CYA) approach to troubleshooting elongates the time it takes to resolve application degradation issues. One CIO that we spoke with said he is tired of the five guys who report to him coming to him with reports showing that their component of IT is running well, and yet their Web site is performing so badly that they are having trouble booking sales orders. He stated “I don’t care where the fault is, I just want them to fix it.”

We certainly acknowledge that there are times when the network is the reason why the performance of an application is degrading. However, we believe that is the minority of instances and so this piece of conventional wisdom is definitely false. We also believe that IT organizations need to move away from a CYA approach to troubleshooting that is based on assigning blame and must adopt a CIO approach to troubleshooting that is based on fixing the problem.

In our next newsletter we will continue to examine some of the conventional wisdom that is related to networking. In the meantime, we would like to hear from you. What pieces of conventional wisdom do you hear all the time that you believe to be false? More information on the topic can be found here.

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