Comparing Best Practices vs Best Efforts

Best PracticesSetting standards managing vSphere using best practices when the best effort is everywhere…

What is a Best Practice?

  • Start with listening to the vendor on how things should be designed or installed (config, hardware, etc).
  • Then, it’s getting someone who knows what they are doing to actually do the design and install.
  • And finally, it’s tweaking things as you go to get the kinks worked out for best health and performance.

What is Best Effort, then?

  • Well, it’s making it work the best way you can regardless of what the vendor or experts recommend for software configuration, hardware, and storage, or network requirements.
  • It’s designing and building it with whoever is available regardless of their skill set.
  • And finally, it’s living with the flaws and fighting the fires it causes.

Is Googling a Best Practice or Best Effort?

I know we all like to think we are following best practices because we passed the VCP test, went to a few VMUG meetings, and did some Googling on how to install vSphere or View, right?

Let me answer this by saying in the last 10 years, I’ve managed 4 different infrastructures and teams, and when I thought I’d seen it all…

…I was surprised yet again by something NAIVE someone had done in the past that caused a BIG problem for my team to solve.

Google is not a replacement for years of experience.

There are No Excuses for NOT Following Best Practices!

Fundamentally, this applies to every technology.

Storage, Network, and Server vendors each have best practices that they recommend.

These practices are learned through testing, trial, and error – then documented by the experts so we can benefit from their mistakes.

But this article is not about any particular best practice or technology, it’s about the confusion between what a best practice is…

…and how that’s different from the best effort.

For Example:

A seasoned NetApp Storage Engineer will give you a storage design that is scalable, robust, and the features work “Correctly” per the vendor’s recommendations.

Whereas, an IT guy will give you their best effort on setting up and configuring NetApp aggregates, replication, and de-duping.

Sure it works, but it is the best effort and long term you may find their solution causes storage problems because certain things weren’t done right due to a lack of experience.

I’ve had my share of best efforts, too!

IT people will figure out anything technical you ask them to do.

Hell, ask me to set up a Cisco UCS environment with all the whistles and bells and I will give you my best effort…

…but ask me to set up Dell or HP pizza box server hardware and I will give you a kick-ass environment that follows best practices.

The difference?

There are just things I have done longer and know more about.

The same goes for virtualization.

Ask me to design and install a vSphere Cloud and I will give you a cloud to be proud of…

…but ask me to design you an OpenStack and KVM cloud and I will give you my best effort, at most.

What’s my point? Don’t be surprised if you are managing a team or environment where things are only as stable and robust as best effort…

This is not Rocket Science, right?

The solution here is to get your staff trained on the products and solutions your company uses.

Most IT people are always ready to learn something new.

A one-week, $5000 training, in the short term could save your company long term from costly outages or time-consuming reconfiguration projects for storage or server hardware.

Here’s a True Story

Once I inherited a Citrix XenApp environment that had been in ICU for 3 years. There were only 50 users and it had been rebuilt 3 different times at a ridiculous cost.

  • First, it was badly built using the best effort by a system administrator with no training or Citrix experience.
  • Second, it was “WAY” overbuilt and never finished by a consulting company out to make a fortune on professional services.
  • Third, it was rebuilt by a Junior System administrator I hired and sent to Citrix training. And then I helped him with best practices from my own Citrix experience.

The end results were amazing:

  • Standardized. (All XA Servers were built the same  – following Citrix best practices)
  • Easy to Scale. (Deployable using VM templates, but not clones – following Citrix best practices)
  • Super Fast. (Went from 10 minutes to open Outlook to 16 seconds – following Microsoft and Citrix best practices)
  • Saved Money. (Using existing vSphere infrastructure, we consolidated 6 huge physical servers into 8 VMs on 3 hosts with N+1 redundancy – following VMware and Citrix best practices)

Wrapping It Up:

For me, there are no confusing best practices with best efforts.

Yes, I know system admins will figure out a way to make it work.

…but is that what you really want?

In the short term, this may be enough to get by…

…but I am telling you for a fact that the chickens will come home to roost at the worst time possible and you will eventually pay dearly for not following best practices.

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