What are the “four magic questions” of performance optimization?

The four “magic” questions about performance of course aren’t really magic. They’re actually just four simple questions you naturally ask when something takes too long.

  1. The first question is How long? How long does it take? This is the first question you need answered about the performance of anything.
  2. Next is Why? Why does it take that long? What does it spend its time doing?
  3. And next, What if? What would happen if you changed something? What would be the cost? The benefit? The risk? This is where you create and innovate, but you want to be guided with feedback here, with data.
  4. Finally, What else? This is the loop that takes you back to the first question: How long does it take now?

On the first pass through the four questions, you eliminate the waste you see. On the second pass, the waste that before was overshadowed by bigger problems is now prominent. After another pass or two, there’s no more wasted time left to eliminate, and your job is done.

These four questions about performance are how we tune our everyday lives. The questions aren’t magic; you’ve just stopped asking them at work because your tools don’t help you answer them. “If I give you the budget for that upgrade you want, then how many hours will you be able to trim off that fourteen-hour report?” It’s the obvious question. But can you answer it by looking at an AWR report? Would you stake your career on it? Of course not.

That’s why a debate breaks out every time there’s a conversation about performance. The four “magic” questions. They’re how you make things go faster. And with Method R, they’re how you make Oracle go faster, too.

By Cary Millsap

Owner and president of Method R Corporation.

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