Critical vs. Important vs. *Yawn*

I have written previously about how my priorities are set. But what about service criticality? Which services do we care about 24×7 vs 8×5 vs 0x0? Well it looks awful similar.

Service Tier Inverted PyramidThe most critical services we have, in general, our users don’t even know about: DNS, LDAP, core switching, border routing, load-balancing, enterprise power redundancy, HVAC, etc. Some of them, our users are very aware of: E-mail (and all 6 sub-components), our primary web service and BearPAWS/Banner, for example. The thing they all share, is that they allow the campus to do its business. Take one of those pieces away, and people will start pacing the halls. Take one of those pieces away, and people outside of the college will have problems communicating with us, and that’s a major problem. These are the “Tier 1” services, services the college needs in order to operate and communicate.

The bulk of our services are not “critical”, but merely “important”- or Tier 2. These services enhance the efficiency of operation, and during certain times may be critical to some segments of the population, but not globally.

Everything else… Well, that’s why there is a Tier 3. Services that are used only by very small groups, services that are underfunded or provided “best effort”, services we warned people against purchasing but they did anyhow (and subsequently found out we knew what we were talking about and hardly ever use), anything hosted on Windows Servers, anything to do with an individual desktop or office server, etc.

When the initial classification of our services was done, about 6 (7?) years ago, I created definitions that described expectations, and then derived the service membership from the definitions. There was a little political shuffling that moved things a bit, but the membership in the tiers was largely objective and defensible. They made sense (to those who understood the services) because they were apolitically added to each tier based on the definitions – not arbitrarily or because of “feelings”.

Initially, and ever since, people have lodged complaints about this service or that service not being supported properly. Historically, we’ve gone back to the definitions, objectively decided we were correct in our classification, and defended the purpose of the service and reason for its classification effectively. Of course, some individuals still felt that some service that is the end-all-and-be-all of their job was more important- After all, if we allowed everyone to make their own Inverse Pyramid of Importance, it would look different… For everyone. 🙂

So here we are 6 (7?) years later, and we’re going through an exercise to re-classify all of the services. It is my hope that it stays objective, devoid of politics and “feelings”, and that tier membership is derived from solid definitions.

Long live the Inverse Pyramid of Importance, in all of its flavors.

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