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How important is system administration?

It is trite to say that society is more than ever dependent on technology.

But consider this...

I work in New York City. Experts claim NYC has a 3-day food supply. That is, if all the bridges and tunnels were closed on Monday, 8 million people would be without food by Wednesday night. Scary, right?

The food that comes to NYC is brought by trucks that are scheduled using big IT systems that manage logistics. In fact, from the farm to the table, logistics and supply chain technology is required at the huge scale we do things now a days.

While NYC might be an extreme case, the same technology-dependent food system is probably what you rely on too.

This dependency is true for the delivery of nearly all services: healthcare, governance, media, security and defense.

If you want to make the world a better place, if you want to "save the world", wouldn't it be impactful to make all of those services run more efficiently? Scaled ahead of demand? Detected problems, routed around them automatically, and repaired them quickly?

That's what system administrators do.

We don't do it alone. System administration is a team sport. We are the pivot point between customers of technology and people. As "technician brokers we often find ourselves with "responsibility without authority"". Our work is highly collaborative even though the tools we use come from vendors that assume we work alone.

Our work is risky and stressful. I don't think non-sysadmins realize how risky and how stressful it is.

Today is System Administrator Appreciation Day. I feel a little weird celebrating a day that we created to ask for appreciation. Secretaries didn't invent Secretary's Day (thought I think Hallmark did). On the other hand, I do firmly believe that it is important for sysadmins to create their own positive visibility. When we do our job well we are invisible. When you have a job like that, you need to do your own PR.

And with a job as important as system administration, we should be doing that every day.

Tom Limoncelli

P.S. I'll be doing my Time Management training (and other classes too!) a lot in the next 6 months: August (Tasmania, SAGE-AU), November (Los Angles, MacTechConf), November (San Jose, Usenix LISA), January (San Francisco, TBD). I hope to be at the Sept meeting of my local sysadmin users group LOPSA-NJ.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

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3 Comments | Leave a comment

So in essense we (system administrators) are a kind of operations researchers (most of who are not formally trained in OR).

BTW, your post reminded me of this article from Bob Lucky about the "keeper of the secrets of the Universe".

Yes, I do think so. I think we should all start studying operations research and fast.

Then hang around the OR-Exchange! (I think I am the only sysadmin over there)

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