Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Liz McMillan, John Basso, Igor Drobiazko, Pat Romanski, Dana Gardner

Related Topics: Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Microsoft Cloud, IoT User Interface, Agile Computing, @BigDataExpo

Java IoT: Article

Ten Questions to Avoid a Classical Business War Room Scenario

Make sure you have the real facts available in order to get through these situations as fast as possible

I personally don't like the term "War Room" when describing a firefighting situation that many software companies have to deal with when systems go down or have problems. The way these war rooms typically play out is that key personnel (engineers, operations, business) are summoned into a room until the problem is solved. This was the case back with the Apollo 13 mission and still is now when we look at the famous Facebook war room from Dec 2012:

The War Room back then - And Now: Not a whole lot different

What's the problem with these pictures? There are a lot of people in the room that have no clue whether the problem on hand is actually something they can fix or are responsible for. All of these people are summoned without first figuring out which people should look at the problem. Why is that? Because the collected "evidence" in the form of infrastructure monitoring data, log files, user complaints, etc., just shows symptoms but doesn't tell us anything about the actual impact and root cause of issues:

Would you know whom to bring into a war room based on these "facts"? Would you want to be one of them?

Looking at the previous image, it is hard to tell which people need to get in a room. Do we just need an Ops guy to restart the process that consumes all of the CPU? Or do we need an application expert that sifts through log files? Do we need to contact our mobile solution provider because it is an actual problem in the 3rd party mobile native app? The typical MO is to simply call-in everybody to figure out the root cause of the problem and with that pulling critical resources from other important projects without even knowing if these folks can actually help solving these problems. How can we change this? By asking the right questions first!

The 10 Real Questions to Ask
You don't need nice and shiny dashboards that show you an aggregated overview of twitter statuses, infrastructure health or insight into slow application transactions. You need data to answer the following questions - whether it is presented in nice dashboards or log files doesn't really matter:

Having answers to these 10 questions avoids calling too many people in a war room and improves handling of critical application problems

1. Is an individual user complaining?
Is it "just" the CEO that complains about a problem with your newly deployed internal app because a report doesn't work on his old IE6? Or is it "just" the end user in a remote location that still uses dial-up? Knowing whether a problem just happens for a single or a very small group of users is important to prioritize.

Analyzing the problem of the complaining user lets us assess whether it is a problem related to just "that" user, e.g, using an unsupported browser version, slow network connectivity,...

2. Are "all" users impacted?
If a large number of users are impacted but you may not have individuals that really complain about it you still need to know as it is very critical to you fix any problems that impact a large number of your users?

Having the evidence that a large number of people in a certain region, using a certain browser or a certain device makes it easy to prioritize this issue

3. Is the problem in the application?
The next question, after knowing whether users are impacted or not, is to figure out if the problem is in the application or not. This allows us to call in the application experts, architects and developers if needed. Looking at the performance distribution gives us an overview where our hotspots really are:

Where are the performance and problem hotspots? Is it really the application? Or do we need to involve other teams?

4. Is there a problem in the delivery chain?
Modern web applications rely on a long list of services along the delivery chain that lies outside of our own data center. That includes CDNs, third-party services, ISPs or mobile networks. Knowing the status of these services and their impact on end user performance of our own application allows us to answer whether to look into our own data center or calling up Akamai, Facebook & Co:

Do CDNs or other third-party services experience any performance issues and is that the root cause of our complaining users?

5. Is one uncritical transaction impacted?
When the error rate goes up - is it a critical transaction such as search? Or is it rather uncritical such as the Contact Page. Or is a BOT causing lots of errors because it crawls through pages that do not exist anyway or that require authentication and with that skews the overall error rate?

Analyzing which transactions drive the error rate may show you that these are not critical because either caused by a BOT or on pages that are not business critical

6. Are critical transactions impacted?
What if your critical transactions are impacted such as the landing page, login, search, or entering a ticket in your support system? These are critical transactions to you, your end users, or your colleagues that need to use the back office software for their daily tasks. If these are impacted you need to act fast. Therefore it is important to monitor these critical transactions on failure rate as well as performance. If these are impacted it is more important to act than other transactions that are not vital to your business - and - you also know which subject matter experts to call:

Monitoring your critical transactions allows you to identify problems on those areas that are critical for your business

7. Is the problem related to bad coding?
If application response time is getting slower, the first question is whether it is because of bad coding. Analyzing the performance hotspot to the code level can tell you whether most of the time is spent because of inefficient algorithms or just not following coding and architectural best practices:

Throwing thousands of exceptions to control program flow is not a good coding practice and also impacts performance

8. Does the infrastructure cause an issue?
What if it is not the app itself, but the app is running low on resources provided by the infrastructure? What if the CPU required to run the Garbage Collector is not available because the machine also runs lots of other services on an already over utilized machine? In that case it is time to think about the infrastructure - better distributing these applications and services or scaling the infrastructure:

Where does the memory shortage come from? Does it impact other processes on that machine? Which processes to move to a different machine?

9. Is the AppServer the issue?
Depending on the AppServer you are using you have multiple configuration options to optimize the usage for your environment. The question remains whether the AppServer might be responsible for performance issues caused by an incorrect setting or corrupt deployment. Correct resource pool (threads, database connection, ...) sizing, security settings or logging options can impact the performance. If it turns out that the AppServer is the problem contact your IBM, Oracle, Microsoft ... specialist:

A global synchronized logging feature of IBMs WebSphere caused this performance issue which can be resolved through configuration settings in the AppServer

10. Is the problem in the virtual machine?
Leveraging virtual compute power - whether it is from your local running VM server farm or running in one of the cloud providers - provides lots of flexibility. But it can also be the reason for performance problems if the virtual machines are not properly sized or are battling for resources with other virtual machines on the same virtual server. Knowing the impact of virtualization on the application allows you to call in the VM experts and not the app developers to solve a problem:

Understanding what is going in EC2, Azure or your VMware ESX Server allows you to figure out whether the virtualize environment is the root cause

Have an Answer to These Questions?
Now that you have an idea about the right questions to ask before you call a war room session together - or before you accept a call into such scenario, you can start focusing on preventing these sessions. Whether you are a developer, architect or on the business side, make sure you have the real facts available in order to get through these situations as fast as possible by calling in the RIGHT people and giving them the RIGHT data to analyze.

Better than spending time in War Rooms however is to prevent the number of times these situations come up. If you want to learn more about this check out some of the other blogs we recently wrote such as Performance-focused DevOps or - in case you happen to be getting ready for the holiday shopping season - Verify Readiness in Test & Pre-Production.

More Stories By Andreas Grabner

Andreas Grabner has been helping companies improve their application performance for 15+ years. He is a regular contributor within Web Performance and DevOps communities and a prolific speaker at user groups and conferences around the world. Reach him at @grabnerandi

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
This is not a small hotel event. It is also not a big vendor party where politicians and entertainers are more important than real content. This is Cloud Expo, the world's longest-running conference and exhibition focused on Cloud Computing and all that it entails. If you want serious presentations and valuable insight about Cloud Computing for three straight days, then register now for Cloud Expo.
IoT device adoption is growing at staggering rates, and with it comes opportunity for developers to meet consumer demand for an ever more connected world. Wireless communication is the key part of the encompassing components of any IoT device. Wireless connectivity enhances the device utility at the expense of ease of use and deployment challenges. Since connectivity is fundamental for IoT device development, engineers must understand how to overcome the hurdles inherent in incorporating multipl...
The increasing popularity of the Internet of Things necessitates that our physical and cognitive relationship with wearable technology will change rapidly in the near future. This advent means logging has become a thing of the past. Before, it was on us to track our own data, but now that data is automatically available. What does this mean for mHealth and the "connected" body? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Lisa Calkins, CEO and co-founder of Amadeus Consulting, will discuss the impact of wea...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Stratoscale, the software company developing the next generation data center operating system, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Stratoscale is revolutionizing the data center with a zero-to-cloud-in-minutes solution. With Stratoscale’s hardware-agnostic, Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) solution to store everything, run anything and scale everywhere...
Angular 2 is a complete re-write of the popular framework AngularJS. Programming in Angular 2 is greatly simplified – now it's a component-based well-performing framework. This immersive one-day workshop at 18th Cloud Expo, led by Yakov Fain, a Java Champion and a co-founder of the IT consultancy Farata Systems and the product company SuranceBay, will provide you with everything you wanted to know about Angular 2.
So, you bought into the current machine learning craze and went on to collect millions/billions of records from this promising new data source. Now, what do you do with them? Too often, the abundance of data quickly turns into an abundance of problems. How do you extract that "magic essence" from your data without falling into the common pitfalls? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Natalia Ponomareva, Software Engineer at Google, will provide tips on how to be successful in large scale machine lear...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Peak 10, Inc., a national IT infrastructure and cloud services provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Peak 10 provides reliable, tailored data center and network services, cloud and managed services. Its solutions are designed to scale and adapt to customers’ changing business needs, enabling them to lower costs, improve performance and focus inter...
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Men & Mice, the leading global provider of DNS, DHCP and IP address management overlay solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The Men & Mice Suite overlay solution is already known for its powerful application in heterogeneous operating environments, enabling enterprises to scale without fuss. Building on a solid range of diverse platform support,...
You deployed your app with the Bluemix PaaS and it's gaining some serious traction, so it's time to make some tweaks. Did you design your application in a way that it can scale in the cloud? Were you even thinking about the cloud when you built the app? If not, chances are your app is going to break. Check out this webcast to learn various techniques for designing applications that will scale successfully in Bluemix, for the confidence you need to take your apps to the next level and beyond.
We’ve worked with dozens of early adopters across numerous industries and will debunk common misperceptions, which starts with understanding that many of the connected products we’ll use over the next 5 years are already products, they’re just not yet connected. With an IoT product, time-in-market provides much more essential feedback than ever before. Innovation comes from what you do with the data that the connected product provides in order to enhance the customer experience and optimize busi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ericsson has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Ericsson is a world leader in the rapidly changing environment of communications technology – providing equipment, software and services to enable transformation through mobility. Some 40 percent of global mobile traffic runs through networks we have supplied. More than 1 billion subscribers around the world re...
Increasing IoT connectivity is forcing enterprises to find elegant solutions to organize and visualize all incoming data from these connected devices with re-configurable dashboard widgets to effectively allow rapid decision-making for everything from immediate actions in tactical situations to strategic analysis and reporting. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Shikhir Singh, Senior Developer Relations Manager at Sencha, will discuss how to create HTML5 dashboards that interact with IoT devic...
Artificial Intelligence has the potential to massively disrupt IoT. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, AJ Abdallat, CEO of Beyond AI, will discuss what the five main drivers are in Artificial Intelligence that could shape the future of the Internet of Things. AJ Abdallat is CEO of Beyond AI. He has over 20 years of management experience in the fields of artificial intelligence, sensors, instruments, devices and software for telecommunications, life sciences, environmental monitoring, process...
Digital payments using wearable devices such as smart watches, fitness trackers, and payment wristbands are an increasing area of focus for industry participants, and consumer acceptance from early trials and deployments has encouraged some of the biggest names in technology and banking to continue their push to drive growth in this nascent market. Wearable payment systems may utilize near field communication (NFC), radio frequency identification (RFID), or quick response (QR) codes and barcodes...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Klein, CEO and Co-founder of Rachio, will discuss next generation communities that are using IoT to create more sustainable, intelligent communities. One example is Sterling Ranch, a 10,000 home development that – with the help of Siemens – will integrate IoT technology into the community to provide residents with energy and water savings as well as intelligent security. Everything from stop lights to sprinkler systems to building infrastructures will run ef...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Fusion, a leading provider of cloud services, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Fusion, a leading provider of integrated cloud solutions to small, medium and large businesses, is the industry's single source for the cloud. Fusion's advanced, proprietary cloud service platform enables the integration of leading edge solutions in the cloud, including cloud...
SYS-CON Events announced today that DatacenterDynamics has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. DatacenterDynamics is a brand of DCD Group, a global B2B media and publishing company that develops products to help senior professionals in the world's most ICT dependent organizations make risk-based infrastructure and capacity decisions.
The IoT has the potential to create a renaissance of manufacturing in the US and elsewhere. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Florent Solt, CTO and chief architect of Netvibes, will discuss how the expected exponential increase in the amount of data that will be processed, transported, stored, and accessed means there will be a huge demand for smart technologies to deliver it. Florent Solt is the CTO and chief architect of Netvibes. Prior to joining Netvibes in 2007, he co-founded Rift Technol...
Join IBM June 8 at 18th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn how to innovate like a startup and scale for the enterprise. You need to deliver quality applications faster and cheaper, attract and retain customers with an engaging experience across devices, and seamlessly integrate your enterprise systems. And you can't take 12 months to do it.