What Can Crooked Cops in Costa Rica Teach Us About IT Performance?

Sometimes the long days and hard-fought battles at the office add up, and start to take a toll on you. When that happens, it’s good to be able to escape somewhere warm, sunny and beautiful. Recently, I did just that when I took a well-deserved vacation in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is an amazing place, filled with great people, beautiful scenery and delicious food. Even the road system, which was notoriously poor in the past, is getting better.

I spent my days relaxing on one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen, and had some great quality time with my family in the swimming pool.

One thing happened during my vacation that really made me think. On the first day of the trip, we were driving to the beach in Manuel Antonio when a man in an official-looking uniform flagged down our car, directing us to pull over. Wanting to obey the law, I immediately slowed down. I figured it was some kind of checkpoint, or maybe I had a light out or committed some other traffic violation.

A friend of mine who lives in Costa Rica and happened to be riding shotgun that day knew better. “Keep going”, he said, “it’s nothing”. I was amazed and confused. I didn’t want to run from the police! I was a guest in this country and the last thing I wanted was to end up on the wrong side of the law. “No way!” I said, thinking I needed to obey the police’s directions. But my companion urged me not to stop, so I drove on, thinking of fines, prosecution and old episodes of Locked Up Abroad.

We passed the official… and nothing happened. In the rearview mirror I saw him flagging down another car. That car also refused to stop, with no consequences. What was going on here? After a short ride another official asked me to stop…. Same thing. At that point I began thinking about prison and how it is going to look like the living behind bars…

My companion told me that it was a scam; people who dressed like police officers are nothing but parking lots attendants that are asking you to park at their “official” place… :)

It reminded me of the world of Application Performance Monitoring. You can have a totally green screen, alerts indicating that the CPU is at 100%, and official monitoring tools telling you that everything is A-OK. But you can’t listen to that. You need to keep going, keep investigating, and keep learning about the environment so that you know for yourself that everything is OK. Don’t just base your decisions on some “official” average or network sample. Push for perfection in performance, and don’t just listen to every fake cop that signals you to pull over.

Think of it this way. When was the last time that one of your customers complained about applications that were too fast?