[Gllug] [OTish] Running an oncall rota

Steve Parker steve at steve-parker.org
Tue Jul 13 23:35:16 UTC 2010

On 14/07/10 00:11, Martin A. Brooks wrote:
> Written to scratch an itch. If you do oncall, or have to manage it, this
> might be of interest:
> http://blog.hinterlands.org/2010/07/running-an-oncall-rota/
I find this one interesting:

# Have realistic expectations of oncall response times. If you need to 
guarantee that problems are attended to within 20-30 minutes then you 
should be running an overnight shift, not oncall.

Where I'm working, they have 15-minute response times, so people end up 
dumping a half-full trolley of shopping in the supermarket to go home 
and dial in to work, etc.  However, the volume is relatively low (on 
average less than 1 call per shift), which would make it very difficult 
to justify paying a sensible rate for a rota of decent engineers, plus 
out-of-hours compensation, to deal with maybe one issue per day; 
out-of-hours is 5x18h Monday-Friday plus 2x24h weekend. That's 138 
hours, or 3.5 full-time positions. Add to that, they have a first-line 
and second-line support, so realistically 7 full-time positions to deal 
with maybe 5 out-of-hours incidents per week.

There is also an Ops team in the Production datacentre, who should deal 
with any initial alerts; what I don't have visibility of, is how many 
issues they deal with, that therefore don't go to 1st/2nd-line support. 
Realistically, an estate of <2000 servers should have very few 
out-of-hours emergencies; surely replacing a mirrored root-disk can wait 
til morning (unless it fails at 6pm Friday at the start of a bank 
holiday weekend)?

Fortunately for me, I'm not on the rota (though I am technically 
available if first- and second- line support can't deal with the problem)


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