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The sysadmin oxymoron

2012/09/04

/* This has been gathering dust for quite some time now */

The cost of communication waste” made me think of the standard oxymoron in our line of business:

“We are forced to kill our children to make our point” says a fellow sysadmin. This is the case where, although the system administrator has recommended an update, upgrade, improvement etc. this is denied thus forcing the system to degrade slowly (or fast sometimes) no matter the effort put against decay by the administrator. Who will finally be forced to let the system die proving the point along the way. But this is no victory. System Adminitrators derive no joy by being right when disaster strikes; they want to have resources for their systems not to fail or at least abandon them properly.

As system administrators we build systems that are supposed to support certain operations for our employer. We build stuff, automate processes and generally walk a path, that the untrained eye thinks it leads to eliminating the necessity of our services. In essence we build our own obsolescence. When things do not work, users (sometimes rightly) believe that we do a lousy work. On the other hand when we sit idle in our offices, we are not needed and may sometimes even be considered a burden, a cost center. Why would one pay a system administrator, if he seems idle all the time? The contradiction is clear: When the systems do not work, it is because we do a lousy job. When the systems work, our services are supposedly not needed.

Fat behaviors rule the IT workplace (IT Gestapo, toxic meetings, pointless report generation) and BOFHs are equally guilty of this. This is the balance we have to keep up with daily, but when running systems with a lot of responsibility but without authority, we have to find ways to make management not only listen, but also act. Because management takes a bet: Things won’t break while they are in office. Since we have to either leave or live with that, we either take the same bet or we make damn sure that our technical points are permanently recorded.

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One Response to “The sysadmin oxymoron”

  1. mpampakis Says:

    Δεν είναι σχόλιο για το κείμενο του ποστ (κι εγώ νιώθω ότι πολλά από όσα λέτε οι sysadmins γίνονται κατανοητά μόνο όταν τα πράγματα πάνε στραβά -δυστυχώς), αλλά για τον τίτλο: μου θυμίζει τον τρόπο που παίρνουν τον τίτλο τους τα επεισόδια του Big Bang Theory. :)


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