How to develop an effective capacity planning process

Trying to get a handle on matching technology infrastructure with demand? Here are the nine major steps associated with implementing a sound capacity planning process.

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Step 2: Identify the Key Resources to be Measured

Once the process owner is selected, one of his or her first tasks is to identify the infrastructure resources that must have their utilizations or performance measured. This determination is made based on current knowledge about which resources are most critical to meeting future capacity needs. In many shops, these resources revolve around network bandwidth, the number and speed of server processors, or the number, size or density of disk volumes comprising centralized secondary storage. A more complete list of possible resources follows:

  • 1. Network bandwidth
  • 2. Centralized disk space
  • 3. Centralized processors in servers
  • 4. Channels
  • 5. Tape drives
  • 6. Centralized memory in servers
  • 7. Centralized printers
  • 8. Desktop processors
  • 9. Desktop disk space
  • 10. Desktop memory

Step 3: Measure the Utilizations or Performance of the Resources

The resources identified in Step 2 should now be measured as to their utilizations or performance. These measurements provide two key pieces of information.

  • 1. A utilization baseline from which future trends can be predicted and analyzed.
  • 2. The quantity of excess capacity available for each component.

For example, a critical server may be running at an average of 60% utilization during peak periods on a daily basis. These daily figures can be averaged and plotted on a weekly and monthly basis to enable trending analysis.

Resource utilizations are normally measured using several different tools. Each tool contributes a different component to the overall utilization matrix. One tool may provide processor and disk channel utilizations. Another may supply information on disk-space utilization; still another may provide insight into how much of that space is actually being used within databases.

This last tool can be very valuable. Databases are often pre-allocated by database administrators to a size that they feel supports growth over a reasonable period of time. Knowing how full those databases actually are, and how quickly they are filling up, provides a more accurate picture of disk space utilization. In environments where machines are used as database servers, this information is often known only to the database administrators. In these cases, it is important to establish an open dialog between capacity planners and database administrators and to obtain access to a tool that provides this crucial information.

Step 4: Compare Utilizations to Maximum Capacities

The intent here is to determine how much excess capacity is available for selected components. The utilization or performance of each component measured should be compared to the maximum usable capacity. Note that the maximum usable is almost always less than the maximum possible. The maximum usable server capacity, for example, is usually only 80 to 90%. Similar limitations apply for network bandwidth and cache storage hit ratios. By extrapolating the utilization trending reports and comparing them to the maximum usable capacity, the process owner should now be able to estimate at what point a given resource is likely to exhaust its excess capacity.

Next: Collect workload forecasts.

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