Days of appreciation in the workplace are an interesting event. Whether it’s Administrative Professional’s Day, Boss’s Day, Day of the Programmer, or others I may have missed (and many in other fields, such as medicine), they are a way to offer thanks for professions that are at times hard. However, I challenge the acknowledgement of a profession like system administration comes with a big caveat: Has this process been innovated for 2018?
SysAdmin Day started (it can be traced to the year 2000) as a great way to give thanks to the professionals in the mix for the hard work that goes along with being a system administrator. Take this into context at the beginning of this century however. Things were harder then. There were more manual IT tasks, more equipment and less automation. This was an important time when the IT space was ripe for innovation, and platforms such as virtualization and the cloud were strictly a meteorological term.
The challenge I pose for today is to ask if systems are indeed being administered like it’s 2018. Are SysAdmins seeking investments (not just with products, but even personal skills) in automation? Are SysAdmins looking to have visibility into all of their data? Are SysAdmins able to have the mobility for workloads that they need today? These are important questions today that are in line with the spirit of the SysAdmin day; but I challenge the skills of a SysAdmin are dependent on the capabilities of the modern era.
Each of those questions are important in today’s IT landscape. The mobility aspect is one that I am very passionate about, and it can avoid problems later. I’ll discuss this one in a bit more detail. When a SysAdmin mentions mobility, what comes to mind? Answers could range from moving an application to a new piece of hardware, doing an upgrade to a new version, or even changing location of an application to a higher performing network or site. I challenge that today’s mobility expectation is that applications can be mobile to the best platforms. This includes the cloud, a hypervisor platform such as Hyper-V, vSphere or Acropolis, or even a next-generation technology for the application. SysAdmins need to be careful to not create traps in their IT practice to have obsolete components in the mix.
One common example is to have obsolete applications on obsolete hardware. I occasionally have spoken to organizations who have obsolete applications on obsolete operating systems which require obsolete hardware. This really strikes me as a bad practice point today. I’m usually talking to these organizations about options related to backup and Availability technologies, however, we reach a stopping point with some of the obsolete museum pieces that are still critical to their operation. I commonly have to advise that organizations have bigger problems than backup when these situations arise. There can be a bigger business issue if the organization is dependent on something that can’t be made available due to obsolete technologies.
These are just a few examples, but the life of the SysAdmin is a tough job. It always has been, and always will be. There is a debate on whether there even will be a SysAdmin job in the near future due to newer technologies (such as the cloud). I challenge that there will be, but only if the SysAdmins of today adapt to current conditions and deliver the best service with the best technologies that don’t put their organizations at risk. For those SysAdmins out there — great job, keep up the good work and always be on the lookout for what you can do better next time, for the next project and for whatever comes up tomorrow.