System Administration

Vol. 8 No. 12 – December 2010

System Administration

Articles

A Plea to Software Vendors from Sysadmins - 10 Do's and Don'ts

What can software vendors do to make the lives of sysadmins a little easier?

A Plea to Software Vendors from Sysadmins—10 Do's and Don'ts

What can software vendors do to make the lives of sysadmins a little easier?

Thomas A. Limoncelli, Google


A friend of mine is a grease monkey: the kind of auto enthusiast who rebuilds engines for fun on a Saturday night. He explained to me that certain brands of automobiles were designed in ways to make the mechanic's job easier. Others, however, were designed as if the company had a pact with the aspirin industry to make sure there are plenty of mechanics with headaches. He said those car companies hate mechanics. I understood completely because, as a system administrator, I can tell when software vendors hate me. It shows in their products.

A panel discussion at CHIMIT (Computer-Human Interaction for Management of Information Technology) 2009 discussed a number of do's and don'ts for software vendors looking to make software that is easy to install, maintain, and upgrade. This article highlights some of the issues uncovered. CHIMIT is a conference that focuses on computer-human interaction for IT workers—the opposite of most CHI research, which is about the users of the systems that IT workers maintain. This panel turned the microscope around and gave system administrators a forum to share how they felt about the speakers who were analyzing them.

by Thomas A. Limoncelli

Bound by the Speed of Light

There's only so much you can do to optimize NFS over a WAN.

Bound by the Speed of Light

There's only so much you can do to optimize NFS over a WAN.


Dear KV,

I've been asked to optimize our NFS (network file system) set up for a global network, but NFS doesn't work the same over a long link as it does over a LAN. Management keeps yelling that we have a multigigabit link between our remote sites but what our users experience when they try to access their files over the WAN link is truly frustrating. Is this just an impossible task?

by George V. Neville-Neil

Articles

Collaboration in System Administration

For sysadmins, solving problems usually involves collaborating with others. How can we make it more effective?

Collaboration in System Administration

For sysadmins, solving problems usually involves collaborating with others. How can we make it more effective?

Eben M. Haber, IBM Research, Almaden
Eser Kandogan, IBM Research, Almaden
Paul Maglio, IBM Research, Almaden


George was in trouble. A seemingly simple deployment was taking all morning, and there seemed no end in sight. His manager kept coming in to check on his progress, as the customer was anxious to have the deployment done. He was supposed to be leaving for a goodbye lunch for a departing co-worker, adding to the stress. He had called in all kinds of help, including colleagues, an application architect, technical support, and even one of the system developers. He used e-mail, instant messaging, face-to-face contacts, his phone, and even his office mate's phone to communicate with everyone. And George was no novice. He had been working as a Web-hosting administrator for three years, and he had a bachelor's degree in computer science. But it seemed that all the expertise being brought to bear was simply not enough. Why was George in trouble? We'll find out.

But first, why were we watching George? George is a system administrator, one of the people who work behind the scenes to configure, operate, maintain, and troubleshoot the computer infrastructure that supports much of modern life. Their work is critical—and expensive. The human part of total system cost-of-ownership has been growing for decades, now dominating the costs of hardware or software.2,3,4

by Eben M. Haber, Eser Kandogan, Paul Maglio