IT Systems Eventually Add Up to Enormous Pains

I’m in pain. My upper back is killing me. I’m not sure what it is – whether it’s my recent athletic activities (marathon/triathlon); my surfing swimsuit, which has become more and more friendly with the icy cold water; or just my working in front of a screen all day. I don’t know. What I do know is that the pain started five years ago and has been gradually increasing until a month ago, when I strained my back and couldn’t move for a couple of days. Last week, it happened again. I made a small movement I’ve done all my life and suddenly I could hardly breathe. Unbelievable.

All the different medicine folks I’ve seen say, on principal, the same thing – something is wrong with my body stability, so there is pressure on my muscles and that’s why my back hurts. I don’t think you need a doctor for that. I’ve tried different techniques – massages, shiatsu, tweena, acupuncture, stability modification exercises. Now I have a new physiotherapist – this guy is built of muscles, and the pain he inflicts on me when I visit him and he moves my spine is probably the most wrenching experience I have encountered so far – and he believes that I need to strengthen the muscles of my upper back. I’m like, ”Dude? I run, bike, swim and surf. What else can I do?” It turns out that none of my athletic activities actually works on the muscles of my upper back. Who’d figure? He believes that once I build my upper back muscle system, my pain will slowly go away. So I’m in the middle of this program. Wish me luck.

What did I learn from this? Small problems that keep popping up will eventually turn into a BIG problem that will linger. I see it in IT shops all the time – an error was there a few times in the past, and nobody knew why. Then suddenly, the application is stuck in over-resource usage in bursts that eventually choke the entire server. There’s a small increase in volume that one day reaches the tipping point. You get the picture. And we all apply our daily/weekly/monthly maintenance activities, but we maintain what is familiar. The new problems are waiting around the corner, and they are not the ones we know how to prevent. So the secret for a healthy IT system is to pay attention to the small annoying things that happen and ask yourself: could this be a warning sign for a bigger problem to come? If everything is fine just now, enjoy it. But don’t neglect your responsibilities. Make sure you have end-to-end visibility into the infrastructure so you can get to the bottom of every malfunction, even small glitches in the log. Test yourself again and again in terms of load and capacity. Be alert all the time because while you may have strong legs that can run for hours, be aware that you, too, may have the upper back of an old man.

This time around, for my own health, I’m applying a method that usually I don’t recommend to my customers: I’m adding more capacity. I’m not generally a strong believer in throwing more horsepower at a problem, but adding more resources may sometimes be the right solution. Let’s hope that muscle guy is right, because I know a few 70-year-olds who are in a better shape than I am right now.