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Tuning: People, processes and technology

Jeremy Kadlec explores the components for properly leveraging people, processes and technology for performance tuning.

All too often, organizations attempt to resolve performance issues with a quick fix or magic bullet to keep the...

business moving ahead of the competition. The perception is that there is no time for planning, designing or testing a solution; you have to move from problem identification to immediately implementing the solution. Unfortunately, the reality is that accurate solutions derived in this manner are few and far between.

Quick fixes typically become long-term nightmares that no one wants to work on. It's only a matter of time before the IT team knows how fragile the system is and what is really required. To top it off, the quick fix is typically some other piece of software that "can just be integrated" and forgotten. In most cases, this is simply not possible.

It has been common knowledge for years that every IT solution consists of people, processes and technology. But when it comes to building a solution, those first two components are left in the dust by the idea that a single piece of technology is the solution. However, what is really necessary is to have your team and management support all three components and avoid shooting from the hip.

In this article, we will explore the components for properly leveraging people, processes and technology for performance tuning.

People: Trained, motivated and performance-tuned

In my opinion, people are the most important aspect of the triad because with good people, the correct processes and technology can be developed, tested and implemented. Without knowledgeable professionals focused on the issues, performance will continue to suffer. As such, I recommend focusing on the following:

  • Team -- Motivate a strong team to address performance-tuning needs. At a minimum, it should consist of developers, database administrators, network administrators, desktop technicians, testers and users.

  • Training -- Make sure the team is properly trained on the technology required to support the application from the front-end application all the way to the storage subsystems. Training in team building and knowledge sharing yields high-performance team members who are well aware of the challenges faced by other team members.

  • Time -- Our scarcest resource is time, but with proper time management we can achieve momentous results. Without the ability to manage your time well, you face insufficient time leading to pressure and stress. Vigilant time management gives you ample time to manage your workload. You do not want to be so busy that at the eleventh hour you realize an issue that was brought up two months earlier had been ignored because you only have brain cycles for the work that is right in front of you, thanks to ever-mounting demands.

Processes include well-known and lesser-known components

Building a process that meets your team's skill set and comfort level with performance-tuning needs is easier said then done. That's why I believe most "solutions" lack processes that address things like implementation, maintenance and support, upgrades, testing and troubleshooting. Do not make processes too complex. Break the work down into small manageable steps that can be distributed among team members.

  • Project management -- Address performance-tuning needs as a project, with a set of goals, start and end dates and, most importantly, managerial support for the project in terms of time and the members of the team. Most of the time, performance tuning is considered a side project to be worked on as time permits. Break this habit! Legitimize these needs.

  • Communication -- First and foremost, communicate your needs for completing the project. Identify, document and test the processes, implement them and learn from the experience and share the knowledge so the same performance-tuning issues are not re-created in the future.

  • Simplicity -- Build accurate and efficient processes and reuse them with the goal of distributing the work load among the team members. Don't risk having all of the knowledge in one person's head. This, too, is easier said then done. But after building a few processes, you will recognize opportunities to reuse processes and streamline the overall project.

Technology, remember, is one of three components

Do not pass by the first two components and proceed directly to a tool to solve your performance problems. A tool may help identify a performance bottleneck but will typically not be able to correct and validate the technical issue in your environment.

  • Components -- Keep in mind that the tool is a third component of the equation, not the overall solution. Once you find the right tool for the issue, the team may have to learn something new and processes may change.

  • Evaluation -- Make sure the technology meets your needs conceptually and practically. Bring the technology in-house and validate that it will meet user and IT expectations. Discuss the short- and long-term potential for the technology to be sure the plans and your expectations align and that support will be available when you need it.

Once you allocate the proper time for evaluation, training, and planning, then you can implement the solution in a timely manner -- while the information is fresh and the team can focus on the issues at hand. Then begin to reap the benefits of your team's efforts in terms of high-performing systems.


Jeremy Kadlec is the principal database engineer at Edgewood Solutions, a technology services company delivering professional services and product solutions for Microsoft SQL Server. He has authored numerous articles and delivers frequent presentations at regional SQL Server users groups and nationally at SQL PASS. Kadlec is the SearchSQLServer.com Performance Tuning expert. Ask him a question here.

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