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Communications of the ACM

Kode Vicious

The Observer Effect

The Observer Effect, illustration


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Dear KV,

The company I work for rolled out a new monitoring system one weekend, and it didn't go as well as we would have liked. When we first brought up the monitoring system, several of our servers started to show very high CPU load. Initially, we could not figure out why. The monitoring processes on each server were very busy, so we turned off the monitoring system and the servers got less busy. Eventually, we realized it was the number of polls being issued by the monitoring system that was causing the servers to use so much CPU time. We decreased the polling frequency to every 10 minutes, and this seemed to be the sweet spot for system performance. What I would like to know is how one should go about tuning such systems, as it seems still to be done via trial and error.


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