What do we call post-modern system administrators? | Opensource.com

What do we call post-modern system administrators?

Our community discusses the responsibilities, possible titles, and potential skills of today's sysadmins.

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For today's sysadmin, many companies expect you to have cross-platform knowledge, network knowledge, and application knowledge. Add to that a dash of programming ability, a pinch of sysadmin experience, a heaping portion of social skills, and a fanatical commitment to reliability and automation.

What do we call this new, post-modern sysadmin? Do we use the same term and simply stretch the responsibilities? Or do we give this evolved role a new name?

We chatted with friends at Enable Sysadmin and in the Opensource.com Correspondent program to get their thoughts. Here's what we heard:

Possible titles

  • How about Enterprise Architect or Solutions Architect? 
  • Or are we talking more of a DevOps Engineer or Site Reliability Engineer?
  • What level of experience and expertise are we looking at? Maybe an Applications Specialist or IT Helpdesk Administrator?
  • Overheard: Platform Engineer or System Engineer

Potential skills

  • setting up a new user account in Google Workplace or similar
  • configuring and ordering laptop, cell phone, service contracts
  • software training (teaching a new user how to use kanban boards, shared storage solutions, or similar)
  • preparing “procedures” manuals
  • monitoring and checking security settings and storage usage
  • keeping an eye on pooled storage
  • deactivating a user leaving us
  • arranging for pickup of equipment
  • working with a user and provider having personal equipment difficulties
  • keeping an eye on internet connection services, telephone services

Lingering questions

Does today's sysadmin need to understand clustering, containers, FS sharding, unicast/multicast coms, and other similar topics?

Is there a dividing line between infrastructure and systems?

Could the title of systems administrator remain the same while the role changes?

Does the image of a sysadmin crawling under the desk to fix broken cupholders still apply?

Are most of today's sysadmins already using a PaaS approach in tandem with doing the basic administrative tasks of managing users, accounts, applications, and licenses?

Are they also a helpful resource for colleagues, acting as an interpersonal bridge between other departments and IT?

Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

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Jen Wike Huger - Jen Wike Huger is the Community Manager for Opensource.com. Catch her at the next open source virtual event, or ping her on Twitter. She lives in Raleigh with her husband and daughters, June and Jewel.

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Chris Hermansen - Seldom without a computer of some sort since graduating from the University of British Columbia in 1978, I have been a full-time Linux user since 2005, a full-time Solaris and SunOS user from 1986 through 2005, and UNIX System V user before that. On the technical side of things, I have spent a great deal of my career as a consultant, doing data analysis and visualization; especially spatial data analysis. I have a substantial amount of related programming experience, using C, awk, Java,...

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Don Watkins - Educator, education technology specialist,  entrepreneur, open source advocate. M.A. in Educational Psychology, MSED in Educational Leadership, Linux system administrator, CCNA, virtualization using Virtual Box. Follow me at @Don_Watkins .

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Moshe Zadka - Moshe has been involved in the Linux community since 1998, helping in Linux "installation parties". He has been programming Python since 1999, and has contributed to the core Python interpreter. Moshe has been a DevOps/SRE since before those terms existed, caring deeply about software reliability, build reproducibility and other such things. He has worked in companies as small as three people and as big as tens of thousands -- usually some place around where software meets system administration...

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Joshua Allen Holm
Joshua Allen Holm - Joshua Allen Holm is one of Opensource.com's correspondents and a Linux distribution reviewer for DistroWatch.com. He is a advocate for open access, open educational resources, and open source software. He holds a master's degree in library and information science from Wayne State University and a master's degree in higher education from Grand Valley State University. Joshua can be reached at holmja@opensource.com.

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Alan Formy-Duval - Alan has 20 years of IT experience, mostly in the Government and Financial sectors. He started as a Value Added Reseller before moving into Systems Engineering. Alan's background is in high-availability clustered apps. He wrote the 'Users and Groups' and 'Apache and the Web Stack' chapters in the Oracle Press/McGraw Hill 'Oracle Solaris 11 System Administration' book. He earned his Master of Science in Information Systems from George Mason University. Alan is a long-time proponent of Open...