in DevOps

Your Cloud Needs a Sys Admin – O'Reilly Broadcast

The programmer-managed infrastructure suffers from a death by a thousand cuts. The programmer is competent with technology and fully capable of setting up a system that can support the application being built. The programmer, however, lacks a detailed understanding of ongoing infrastructure management. Consequently, the programmer-managed infrastructure ultimately leads to an environment incapable of adjusting to changing demands and potentially opens vulnerabilities to hackers through discreet channels.

The reverse is true of the sys admins who fancy themselves programmers. They can craft Perl programs to do just about any task. Those programs, however, ultimately lack the solid architecture that programming skills provide.

Your Cloud Needs a Sys Admin – O’Reilly Broadcast.

Fair warning:  I’m a sysadmin so my opinion might be slightly biased on this idea.

Yes, you do need a sysadmin.  Just like the blog posts suggests.  Like everything in business, you want to use the right tool for the right job.  Sure, you can use a wrench to hammer a nail in, but in the process you’re likely going to smash a finger, chip the wood, and spend excessive time frustrating yourself when pounding that nail into place doesn’t go fast enough to meet your nail-hammerin’ schedule.

Sysadmins are hammers (the right tool) when it comes to nails (managing systems and infrastructures).  A good sysadmin, like the blog post alludes, has a broad and necessary knowledge required for running a system (or set of systems) effectively and safely (read:  securely).  More often than not, we have the experience needed to tell you when exactly you can cut corners, when you shouldn’t, and why doing so may or may not be the right thing for your environment.

There’s an old AI koan that I’m reminded of.

A novice was trying to fix a broken Lisp machine by turning the power off and on. Knight, seeing what the student was doing spoke sternly: “You can not fix a machine by just power-cycling it with no understanding of what is going wrong.” Knight turned the machine off and on. The machine worked.

Travis Campbell
Staff Systems Engineer at ghostar
Travis Campbell is a seasoned Linux Systems Engineer with nearly two decades of experience, ranging from dozens to tens of thousands of systems in the semiconductor industry, higher education, and high volume sites on the web. His current focus is on High Performance Computing, Big Data environments, and large scale web architectures.