What do we call post-modern system administrators?

Our community discusses the responsibilities, possible titles, and potential skills of today's sysadmins.
36 readers like this
36 readers like this
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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 leads a team of community managers for the Digital Communities team at Red Hat. She lives in Raleigh with her husband and daughters, June and Jewel.
Chris Hermansen portrait Temuco Chile
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.
Educator, entrepreneur, open source advocate, life long learner, Python teacher. M.A. in Educational Psychology, MSED in Educational Leadership, Linux system administrator, Follow me at @Don_Watkins .
Moshe sitting down, head slightly to the side. His t-shirt has Guardians of the Galaxy silhoutes against a background of sound visualization bars.
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.
Alan Formy-Duval Opensource.com Correspondent
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.

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