Our View: Prepare Now for Cyber-Monday 2007

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2006-12-11 Print this article Print

Opinion: The best companies treat IT budgets as strategic investments and don't let them become sitting ducks for the snipers of cost reduction.

IT people spend much of their time—and invest much of their credibility—putting numbers on things that might or might not happen. Security threats might appear in the wild, or not. Disasters might justify costly contingency planning and backup systems, or not. But year-end peak loads on financial systems, not to mention "Cyber Monday" and other spikes in workload, come every year. So why is it they seem to come as a surprise?

During Thanksgiving weekend, servers at both Wal-Mart and Macys appeared to suffer after-dinner drowsiness. Wal-Marts systems were described by monitors at Keynote Systems in San Mateo, Calif., as "effectively down" from 4:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on the critical "Black Friday" of the holiday weekend.

Macys systems ran at one-sixth of normal throughput from 4 a.m. to 2 p.m. that same day, a striking coincidence but apparently not a parallel symptom of a single Internet-related cause. These slowdowns were likely caused by site-specific errors: possibly ill-behaved applications, very likely system misconfigurations and almost certainly inadequate knowledge of what tasks were consuming what resources. Someday, someone may even be held accountable—not that this will do any good. What will do good is for all the other IT pros to do more than give thanks that it didnt happen to them. Its not enough to dodge a bullet: At some point, one needs to shoot back.

Many of next years challenges will arrive on schedule, but many will be larger and more complex. SOAs (service-oriented architectures), for example, present a rising number of points at which critical workloads may concentrate. However, those same SOAs also offer the potential of improved visibility of interactions and improved scalability to fluctuating demands. Server virtualization, dynamic resource allocation and proper investment analysis should be among the weapons that IT builders start deploying now, before next years peak demands inexorably arrive. In addition, governance mandates and SLAs (service-level agreements) offer leverage toward securing resources for ITs needs. The best companies treat IT budgets as strategic investments and dont let them become sitting ducks for the snipers of cost reduction. IT pros should put numbers not just on risks but also on opportunities and be unapologetic in pursuing the resources required to make the most of what technology can deliver. Preparation for Cyber Monday 2007 starts now.

Tell us what you think at eweek@ziffdavis.com.

eWeeks Editorial Board consists of Jason Brooks, Peter Coffee, Stan Gibson, Scot Petersen and David Weldon.

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Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at salesforce.com, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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