Authors: Jason Cross & Dr. Manzoor Mohammed
Business and technology are constantly evolving. The business is adding new features, user behaviour is constantly changing, and technology performance is continually improving.
Rightsizing is a crucial discipline to understand that evolution.
The greatest value comes from embedding it as a core discipline in your engineering teams; it should not be a one-off exercise:
- Rightsizing aligns your teams with the evolution of the business and technology
- Rightsizing improves the teams' observability skills to drive smarter product improvements
- Rightsizing prevents incidents by allowing the teams to understand/spot issues early
1. Rightsizing aligns your teams with the evolution of the business and technology
Why does rightsizing help understand this evolution? When rightsizing, teams will look at the business, the application and the infrastructure together. Without regular cycles of rightsizing, they will miss changes in these 3 areas and opportunities to improve customer experience and create new revenue.
Examples of evolution:
Business: The team from a major SaaS provider went through a rightsizing cycle but found they couldn't rightsize their storage because customer data was growing substantially. This allowed them to go back to the businesses to amend their product offerings and create new revenue streams.
Customer: A major retail business couldn't rightsize because a small number of users behaved in a way they didn't expect. e.g. having large baskets in an online eCommerce environment. So a single very active user running on that machine would prevent it from being rightsized.
This 'noisy neighbour' behaviour was found from rightsizing. This insight allowed them to improve the platform's stability, making performance for other users more predictable.
Technology: At a major SaaS provider, the introduction of burstable managed disks from Azure provided a great opportunity to rightsize. This allowed a more appropriate blend of storage and performance which better suited their short-lived high-intensity workload.
Engineers focus on delivering new functionalities. However, the whole point is for them to support the evolution of business and technology, so teams need this insight.
2. Rightsizing improves the teams' observability skills to drive smarter product improvements
Before, during and after engineers rightsizing, engineers have to look at the data to ensure it can be done safely without impacting the customer experience.
They need to understand what the customer is doing, their performance level, and how they consume capacity on the underlying technology. To do this successfully, they need to ask the right questions:
- Are we collecting the correct data - what are we missing?
- Are we reporting it in the right way - Are we looking over the right time range and at the right granularity?
- What does the data tell me? For example, someone new looking at a data set might not see anything, thinking all is okay. However, someone more experienced looking at the same dataset might spot a whole host of issues. The latter might not have all the answers but are asking the right questions.
This chain of questions allows them to drill down further, understand what the data is and compare it with data sets from business and technology. This joined-up approach to data analysis is an important muscle that brings insights into how customers use the technology and that can be used in the rest of the organisation.
3. Rightsizing prevents incidents by allowing the teams to understand/spot issues early
Being familiar with the system or dataset by revisiting them will allow engineers to understand issues better and spot them faster. It's the kind of activity you have to keep doing, so the more you do it, the better you get at it.
When you look at a dataset you're familiar with, in a system you're familiar with, you're able to spot when something is wrong a mile off. So your experience will allow you to spot issues easier.
If you make rightsizing a core discipline within your engineering teams, they will reach a point where it comes naturally to them, avoiding issues and reaping all the benefits.