New Article on AITS: Redundancy in the Data Center

AITSBloggingAllianceMy latest article for AITS was published today: Redundancy: You Can Say That Again!

This past summer, there were two very high-profile system outages at Delta Airlines and Southwest Airlines that underscored the need to design for survivability and availability at the enterprise level. This article starts with the “punch lines” from each incident and then explains the role of redundant components and services in the modern data center. I then go on to review best practices in testing and close by bringing up the Cloud as an alternative to the one-size-fits-all corporate data center, especially now that different availability service levels can be acquired as needed for each application.

As always, thanks for taking the time to read my stuff.

Five Boxes, Three Ways

I read a lot of articles every week in curating these round-ups, and not all of the content is produced by project managers. Probably less than half, most weeks. I see a lot of excellent content from non-project managers, and a lot of gibberish, in about the same ratio that I see from project managers. Not everyone shares the same understanding of project management methodologies, even among the practitioners. I typically use the general classifications “Established” or “Traditional” methods and “Agile” methods while some folks refer to a methodology called “Waterfall.” So, in an effort to over-simplify these three commonly referenced methodologies, I’d like to show five boxes, three different ways.

This first version is frequently referred to as “waterfall.” Back in the 80’s, there were a few projects that were actually run in a fashion similar to this. Most failed, because you have to monitor while executing, or you don’t catch the errors until it’s too expensive to correct them. Ever seen that poster of two teams, building a bridge from opposite shores of a river, getting to the middle and suddenly realizing that they’re not matching up? Yeah, like that.


The second version is the way most projects have been managed for the last few decades: complete the planning stage, and then move on to execution, while monitoring the process and quality as you go. This is especially critical in civil engineering projects, like the apocryphal bridge, but also for those where compliance with some external protocols or requirements is required, or where powerful stakeholders have to be satisfied, or where a lot of sub-contractors, inspectors, or other contributors are involved.


These days, many projects are being run using Agile methods: plan enough to begin execution, monitor more-or-less continuously, and re-plan based on what you learn as you go. This is great for certain kinds of software and consumer product development projects; not so much for civil engineering, pharmaceutical development, and other projects where the product will have a lot of potentially catastrophic failure modes and a very long life.












Note that the contents of the boxes have not changed. Poor execution will doom a project, no matter what else is going on. Initiating the wrong project or starving the right one for resources will generate a negative ROI, no matter how you manage it. And failing to monitor scope, schedule, cost, quality, and the mood of the stakeholders will burn any project to the ground. Simply re-arranging the boxes, like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, won’t change the outcome. But there will always be people who want to try.

New PM Articles for the Week of November 21 – 27

New project management articles published on the web during the week of November 21 – 27. And this week’s video: “Weightless,” by Manchester, UK “ambient” band Marconi Union. A study by Mindlab International determined that this song produces a greater state of relaxation than any other music tested to date: a 65% reduction in overall anxiety and a 35% reduction in usual physiological resting rates. In case of holiday-induced stress …

Must read!

  • Darragh Broderick points out five leadership lessons we can learn from the National Football League.
  • Johanna Rothman provides elegant definitions of iterative and incremental, and how each manages a different type of risk.
  • Seth Godin notes that automation is reducing the difference in cost between custom, on-demand orders and mass-produced products. We’ll need a few adjustments in our management approach to stay in business.

Established Methods

  • Barry Hodge helps us radically transform our status reports by making progress visible.
  • Dmitriy Nizhebetskiy posted two more risk management videos, on selecting risk response strategies. Total time just over 7 minutes, safe for work.
  • John Goodpasture points out the application of project statistics in “Cost Risk and Uncertainty,” Chapter 14 of the GAO Cost Estimating Manual. Free download!
  • Pat Weaver reports to us on the application of virtual reality and 4D Building Information Modelling to optimize scheduling of activities and resources in construction projects.
  • Harry Hall tutors us on scope risks – how to recognize them, how to manage them.
  • Mike Donoghue puts the focus on gathering and managing requirements.
  • Naomi Caietti explains the details of managing organizational change in projects.
  • Cornelius Fichtner interviews Suketu Nagrecha, Chairman of the Board of the PMI Educational Foundation. Just 19 minutes, safe for work.

Agile Methods

  • Stefan Wolpers posts his weekly round-up of Agile articles, blog posts, and other content.
  • Dave Prior discusses “being” Agile, as opposed to “doing” Agile with Jessie Shternshus and Paul Hammond. Just 40 minutes, safe for work.
  • Henny Portman bullets the learning objectives of the SAFe 4.0 Scrum Master course.
  • Margaret Kelsey rounds up links to the top five #DesignTalk webinars of 2016, with links to the recordings.

Applied Leadership

  • Elizabeth Harrin identifies the potential sources of conflict in each phase of the project life cycle.
  • Leigh Espy shares a variety of ways to express appreciation to your team and co-workers.
  • Deanne Earle reviews “Leading in a Changing World,” by Keith Coats and Graeme Codrington.
  • Elise Stevens interviews author and organization change management consultant Michelle Gibbings on becoming a more effective influencer. Just 17 minutes, safe for work.

Technology and Techniques

  • Mike Griffiths tutors us on the fine points of creating multiple choice questions (and how to spot the correct answer in poorly written examples).
  • Leyla Acaroglu reviews the two physiological states of being for insights into what motivates change. As it turns out, a little discomfort is a good thing.
  • Jory McKay explains how our brain processes what we’ve read for retention. Yes, how you read makes a difference.

Working and the Workplace

  • Nir Eyal updates us on the current state of the ongoing debunking of ego-depletion, and suggests that there is meaning in our feelings about our work.
  • Suzanne Lucas reports on a study from Germany: switching from a seniority-based system to a merit-based system breeds inter-generational resentment.
  • Lisette Sutherland interviews Clare McNamara on giving virtual teams the time and space to get to know each other. Just 38 minutes, safe for work.