Throwback Thursday: Oh, sorry, did someone sell off half of YOUR capacity?

And are you sure that that metaphorical pipe is draining FLOODwater?

Computerworld  |  Shark Tank
Computerworld / IDG

Back in the day, the company where this pilot fish works has part of its operations on a mainframe — and mostly that’s fine.

“The start of the month — running reports from the prior month — was the busiest time,” says fish. “Fortunately, there was enough capacity that only at month-end did the system hit its limits, and sometimes not even then, if things were spaced out a bit.

But then some system engineers decide to cut the capacity of the system by half and sell off the units making up the excess capacity. They call this a win-win: The company will rake in some money, and the system will be utilizing more of its capacity more of the time.

Fish and the IT operations staff try to explain that this is a spectacular misunderstanding of how the system actually functions, because if a computer system is running at full capacity, it’s not efficient — it’s overloaded.

“The correct analogy,” fish says, “is to a pipe trying to drain off floodwater. If the pipe is running completely full, that means there is more floodwater accumulating than the pipe can carry away. While this situation exists, your flooding will get worse. Only if your pipe has more capacity than is needed is it actually running efficiently.”

The decision makers are unmoved, and the equipment is sold off — and as expected, month-end jobs immediately take three times as long to complete. Meanwhile, day-to-day transactions during the month-end crunch are running at a crawl or locking up and failing completely.

Executives and managers aren’t getting the reports they need as quickly as before. Users are frustrated because everything seems to take forever.

And everyone in IT who has to cope with the struggling system and the outraged users knows exactly what the problem is.

Well, except for one group.

“The idiots who precipitated the whole thing were still patting themselves on the back because they’d made the system more efficient,” grumbles fish.

Sharky’s got plenty of capacity for handling true tales of IT life. Send me yours at You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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