Hardware isn't enough

To find infrastructure performance killers, you've got to know where to look

IT buyers live in a golden age of commodity hardware. Processors, servers, networks, storage, you name it: Every segment of the IT stack keeps getting faster, cheaper, and more commoditized. No surprise, then, that IT managers often resort to a checkbook-waving strategy, throwing hardware at every IT problem, from a balky WAN to an application speed bump.

Not so fast, contend Senior Contributing Editors Maggie Biggs and Paul Venezia, who co-wrote this week’s cover story, “15 IT performance problems and remedies." It’s tempting to look at the IT universe through a hardware lens, but that first impulse can mask the real problem. Take your typical network slowdown. You could swap in new servers, but “on a corporate network, the performance difference between a 1.2GHz PIII and a 3.0GHz P4 system running DNS and DHCP services is generally unnoticeable,” Venezia says. “A slight configuration error, such as a switchport duplex mismatch, though, could slow server network throughput to a crawl.”

Venezia and Biggs know whereof they speak. When not writing for InfoWorld, both are IT pros working in corporate environments with beefy infrastructures. During the course of their careers, they’ve seen just about every configuration -- and problem -- imaginable. The 15 classic bottlenecks identified here reflect those real-life experiences.

“Some of the solutions might seem obvious, but they’re not at all obvious for CTOs and IT directors looking from the inside,” Venezia says. Or as Biggs notes, “If top management walked the halls and asked engineers and analysts, ‘What should we be doing to reduce production bottlenecks?’ they’d get the kinds of solutions we propose here.”

So you can walk the halls, or you can read this article. Or even better, do both. That way you’ll get some exercise along with your inspiration.