Reply to Why Isn't System Administration Evolving?

by Thomas A. Limoncelli

Since fellow O'Reilly blogger Luke Kanies mentioned me in his excellent piece Why Isn't System Administration Evolving? I thought I should clear up some misstatements.


Luke Kanies
2007-02-09 15:25:19
Hi Tom, I'm very sorry to have mischaracterized your presentation.

I completely agree with you about making usable CM tools. My company only has one other employee besides me, and his main focus is the user experience. I know I'm not there yet, but I hope I can continue getting better and someday say I have great usability; I like to think that things are better now than they were in 2005 :).

I'm glad to see I was wrong about your perspective on automation, and it'd be great if we got more posts from you here.

Steve McInerney
2007-02-12 18:24:24
I'd throw one additional section in here that I feel you both missed. :-)

Setting up automation has a cost. Doing it manually has a cost. Generally and in my experience - for small runs, manually is cheaper, and quicker. Tom's comment about spending a day for a 5 minute task is spot on. Been there. Done that. Shouldn't have. That 5 minute task needs to be run 96 times to break even on a time cost basis. Ouch!
So I personally try to focus my efforts on automating tasks that get run lots of times. Not a few. For me and the systems I currently look after? Automating server builds is way down the list of priorities. To all but non existent. Documenting how servers are built - well that's another issue altogether.

Having said all that, sometimes the 8 hours for the 5 minutes can be justified. "I need a break from staring at packet dumps" is not, IMNSHO, unreasonable. :-)


Matthew Sporleder
2007-02-17 09:32:31
Yes, yes, and yes. After reading the article you're replying to, I felt exactly the same way.

Are there people who literally ssh to 200 servers and vi some file? Sure.. But not many who stay sysadmins for long. (or maybe they stay in the job forever!)

Anyway, I agree.