Throttling Network Bandwidth

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One of the aspects of monitoring that IT professionals (and monitoring software developers in particular) think about a lot is “throttling.” How do you control the flow of data entering the system? How do you manage that same data once it’s been processed and needs to be logged in the database? How do you stop creating “ticket storms?” How do you keep all the various queries, which drive displays, reports, alerts, and data updates, from hammering the database into the ground?

…And so on.

As much as we think about throttling in our systems, we don’t always give our personal workload the same thought. Or, more accurately, we think about how much work we have on our plates, but not about ways to manage the flow of that work in and out of our inbox, To Do list, meeting calendar, and ticket queue.

I was reminded of that recently when I started working with Mike, a new product manager. He showed up to our meeting armed with nothing but a slab of blank Post-It notes and a Sharpie. As we brainstormed and my screen filled up with line after line of ideas, tasks, and information, Mike occasionally peeled off a Post-It with a single thought scrawled in thick, black strokes.

I was initially confused. But by the end of the meeting it was clear to me that Mike’s system enforced an economy of both motion and thought. Like Twitter, the constriction of both space and line caused the essential to come into sharp focus. Any idea or task that couldn’t fit onto a single note was clearly (by his estimation) not fully baked. There was more work to be done to get at the essence of it before he would commit it to paper—and commit to its execution.

I’m not saying we all should toss our legal pads and Evernote accounts for stacks of tiny square sticky notes (for the record, Mike was using the larger 4 x 2 pad, not the small 2 x 2s). I’m saying that I recognize the effectiveness of ONE system that works for ONE person I know.

I’m also saying that Mike had given the issue of workflow and throttling some thought. Then he put together a plan of action. How many of us do the same? Based on an informal survey of coworkers, I’d say the number hovers somewhere around one (Mike).

It’s an interesting idea, and one that I challenge you to devote some time to. Your workflow is not much different from the data flowing in and out of your systems and networks. What are some ways to enable flow control? How can you handle “burst-y” emails coming from a coworker, manager, or department? When could you enable QoS rules on your task traffic in order to prioritize the most important packets?

Like your network, the overall stability, efficiency, and efficacy of the entire infrastructure will probably improve as a result.