Focused capacity management has ‘avoided 20 major incidents’ at BSkyB

By Peter Gothard
28 Nov 2012 View Comments

A good IT capacity management policy has "avoided 20 major incidents" at BSkyB in recent months, according to the company's head of capacity, Alan Collier. 

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"It stops cock-ups," said Collier. "It's not very glamorous and doesn't have shiny lights on it, but in focusing on this we've recently avoided about 20 major incidents on billing systems, and on frontline customer-facing high profile products.

"We're spotting potential massive failures and major incidents, and stopping them well in advance. We're also saving a fortune by going into procurement and purchasing well in advance. We can know six months in advance how much storage we need to buy, what type, and where, which makes a huge difference to the quality of deals we can do with our purchasing."

Collier believes far too many organisations still neglect this area of IT management.

"I think that [failing to address] medium-term capacity decision making, and not understanding the capacity of your services, is really common," said Collier.

"It falls through the gaps. People constantly come up against the problems of not making those decisions.

"They'll be running out of storage or capacity. It's very common in the press for big websites that launch without enough capacity, or which can't grow fast enough."

Cloud's status as "the new big thing", said Collier, makes these kinds of problems even worse.

"Everyone's throwing their services at clouds, assuming those clouds have infinite capacity," said Collier.

"Whether you throw it into a public cloud and presume it's Amazon's problem to sort out capacity there, or you build your own, it's all just another set of infrastructure. You may be provisioning to it well, and managing it in a fast and dynamic way, but ultimately you've got to make the same decisions about your private cloud as you do about any other set of infrastructure."

But ultimately, said Collier, "people are rushing headlong into cloud assuming that everything will take care of itself in terms of capacity."

When Collier joined BSkyB two years ago, the firm's capacity management team had still not addressed "some basic problems".

"Sky had had a capacity management function for about four or five years, but they've never really got off the ground or achieved anything really useful, I think would be a polite way of putting it," said Collier.

"It's a problem of scale, and that's why doing it at Sky is a challenge," said Collier. "The IT scale here is huge; we're getting on to five petabytes of storage, we're getting on for 10,000 or more virtual machines, and between 400 and 500 different IT services, and that's just the ones you pretend to know about."

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