All Good Things…

Dear readers,

This my last post to this blog. Why?  Because I’ve said all I have to say about performance. I could make up some new buzzwords, or push a new paradigm, and thus have an excuse to keep blogging. However, I feel the best action is to value quality over bafflegab and just stop here.

coverThe Every Computer Performance Book is the sum of what I had to pass on to the next generation and this blog contains a lot of what is in that book, plus a few extra goodies. I wrote the book to give back useful things that will always be true about performance work. I wrote the blog to help you find the book and for those that prefer their information in a digital form.

The blog entries are carefully tagged and categorized. If you just found this blog, I’d start at the first entry and read it forward.

I love to hear from my readers. If you care to write you can find me on the web, but know that above all, I love getting postcards and letters.  If you are so moved, you can write to me at the address below. This is my high-fun, part-time, post-retirement job.

Bob Wescott – Tour Guide
c/o Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour
1281 Waterbury-Stowe Road
Waterbury, VT 05676
USA

My computer performance career was a grand adventure, but all good things must come to an end.

"So, five-card stud, nothing wild... and the sky's the limit."

StarTrek: The Next Generation “All Good Things…” Series Finale, Final Scene

 

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Ben-Jerrys-ice-cream-coffee-heath-bar-crunchI’m retired from performance work. My last quest is to give back what Ive been given to the next generation. That’s why I wrote The Every Computer Performance Book, that’s why I set the price to $9, and that’s why I’m writing this blog.

If you have found useful stuff here, I would be grateful if you could help me reach others who need to know about performance. Specifically:

  • Recommend this to friends
  • Link to the blog from your site
  • Let other know you think this is good stuff with some social media goodness (tweets, posts, etc.)

Thank you very much for reading my blog.

I hope you have a grand career in high tech and get to retire early. If you do, come join me as a tour guide at Ben & Jerry’s. It is the sweetest possible after-career desert job.

 

Don’t Panic About The Math

dontpanicWhen you read about performance you are often presented with complex laws and elaborate equations. All that can be intimidating, but fear not. I paid off my mortgage and retired early by doing useful and productive performance work with the ideas presented here. The most complex formula I’ve ever used to solve a performance mystery is: R = S / (1 – U)

In the equation above, if you can replace S with the number 2 and U with the number 0.5 and calculate that R is equal to (spoiler alert) 4, then you have all the math skills you need for a long career in performance.

If you are gifted in the ways of mathematics and a stickler for detail, you will find I left all that detail out and do not show the deep math behind these ideas because, like most people, I can’t do that math. Here is an example of math I can’t do from an academic paper called “Basic Queueing Theory”:

formula

Without being able to work, or understand, the formula above, I’ve solved real performance problems on four different continents. Think about it this way… You don’t have to be an expert on thermodynamics, combustion physics, and yeast biology to bake a loaf of bread.

Most of the tricks I know I learned from other performance gurus. They worked for them, they worked for me, and so I believe, they will work for you too.  I’m retired from performance work and now my goal is to give back what I’ve learned and used to the next generation.

Who Am I To Tell You About Performance?

meIf you are impressed with work experience, then read on as I’ve spent the last 25 years teaching performance fundamentals, capacity planning, modeling, and performance testing of websites. I spent about 15 of those years also doing performance work on live systems and critical applications for customers around the world. When working with customers I would typically spend 3-5 days there. I would arrive knowing almost nothing about their business and their problems and leave having given them a clear path to follow.

If you are a person who is only impressed with academic qualifications then I have few to offer you. I went to college with no particular plan, other than to have a good time. I had three majors (Wildlife Biology, Botany and Computer Science) but I have no degree as I left college when I ran out of money and got my first job in the computer industry. That was 1980.

I’m a practical guy that listens well, seeks out useful insights, tools and techniques. I’ve read a few computer performance books and found a few good things here and there. Mostly I’ve learned from other performance wizards, programmers, system administrators and a few generally smart people I’ve known. If it worked for them, then I’d figure out how to make it work for me.

I’m also good at explaining things clearly. I’ve had plenty of practice in my standup teaching as well as when working with customers. Clarity is essential when explaining to senior management that they need to spend large amounts of money. An engaging style is essential when teaching multi-day classes, especially just after lunch. I like people and if I couldn’t make my classes useful, interesting, and relevant, then I would have stopped teaching a long time ago.

The seed idea of this book came from Anybody’s Bike Book by Tom Cuthbertson. Back in the 70’s he wrote this wonderful little book about repairing literally any bicycle. Forty years later, it is still in print and still useful. I hope that this does the same thing for computer performance work.

Why Read This Blog

I’m not making this up.

I was in the big meeting before they let me on the live system that was at the very core of the second largest stock exchange in the United States. Everyone was there including the CIO. The meeting went smoothly and was very professional. When the meeting ended, the room cleared except for me and a powerfully built young man who was the lead system administrator. He got right in my face and in a clearly ominous tone quietly said, “Don’t fuck up the computer!”

On another day, at another business, the CEO asked me into his office and quietly told me: “If you do not have this problem fixed by the end of the week, I will have to lay everyone off and sell the building.” He was as serious as the grave.

On another day, on a different continent, I discovered the root of a huge problem a credit card company was having. A trivial change in the source code made a key transaction run approximately 200 times faster. The ensuing celebration was epic.

Performance work can make you a hero, it can save the company, and it can get you threatened, as well. However, most of the time it is remarkably ordinary. You gather data. You work to understand what it’s telling you. You present your conclusions. If you do your work right, most of the time, there is no drama at all.

Any average person can do basic performance work. You can read the obvious meters and write nice little reports. If you have an inquisitive mind and the willingness to dig for the hidden truth, then you can go beyond the obvious meters and do great work – the kind of work that saves the company.

I am at the end of my career, but before I walk off the stage I hope in this blog to give back the hints, tricks, knowledge, and wisdom so many have generously given to me.

The stuff I will write about works on any collection of computers, running any application on any operating system. It is the essence of what is true, and what works, in any performance related situation regardless of the technology involved.

I hope that you find this useful.