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Why brown outs have the same consequences as black outs!


In technology terms a black is a full outage and a brown out is a congestion situation. The usual thing is that a blackout is debilitating while a brownout is an inconvenience. However, in many cases congestion is just as debilitating as an outage especially in the case of a network or even a service desk.

Domino effect

Let us assume that to deliver a resources we need 10 resources. These resources might be people, processes or tools. Now, assume there are only 9 resources. Logic would deduce that the delivery service would degrade by 10%. However, this is incorrect as the delivery of services immediately drops by 25%. This is because the impact of forcing other resources to try and close the gap, also reduces their effectiveness. Additionally, over time the service delivery starts trending further downwards because of a cascading dominoes effect where eventually a full outage situation might as well be declared.

Thus if you have a service desks that just survives with 25 people and you cut down to 20, expect chaos. If you have a 100 Mb/s network link and you try and push 150 Mb/s through it expect chaos. Don't expect a proportional degradation in service levels!


So if you end up with blackouts or brownouts, how do you solve it? We use the cow analogy! This is the advice that Anne Mulcahy have to successfully revive the ailing fortunes of Xerox, the well-known copying and printing firm as reported by the Economist here.

“FIRST, get the cow out of the ditch. Second, find out how the cow got into the ditch. Third, make sure you do whatever it takes so the cow doesn't go into the ditch again.”

Now the problem with Eskom in South Africa is that de Ruyter has no idea where the ditch is and what cow we are talking about.

Any further cow advice, please moo below in the comments.

This article was originally published over on LinkedIn: Why brown outs have the same consequences as black outs!


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