Why Systems Administrators Are Gold

Cloud services like Amazon’s AWS are creating a talent gap by eliminating the need for systems administrators. That means companies have to build their business without having the in-house expertise needed to run their own data centers when the time comes.

Data CenterThe rise of cloud services providers means fewer people are developing the operational skills needed to build and maintain a business’s infrastructure. As a result, finding people who can tackle that work has become more difficult, Steve Curry, president of managed OpenStack provider Metacloud, told the Register. He worries that in the not-too-distant future, it may become near impossible to find professionals who can do those jobs.

Amazon, Curry said, “has destroyed the unicorn factory.” By that, he means that Amazon – and other providers — has made it so easy to set up a Web presence companies no longer trouble with the time and expense necessary to develop, break and learn from their own data centers. In the past, startups would get funding, buy hardware, build their own date center from the ground up and scale it as the business grew. “No one does that anymore,” Curry said. Instead, companies use third parties for their hosting solution and put their money into the core business — and infrastructure’s not the core.

The big problem comes when businesses move off of rented cloud space because of performance or other issues. The talent they need to construct their own solution has become all but impossible to find. Metacloud itself has had to spend a lot of money hiring people away from Google to secure the skills it needs to manage its own solution. As the Register notes: “Not everyone can afford the digits to tempt an employee away from those ad-gilded confines.”

12 Responses to “Why Systems Administrators Are Gold”

  1. Fred Bosick

    Train them! Or, at least, hire a promising individual and let them learn on the job. I’m tired of seeing job ads that demand skills found in no less than 3 people simultaneously. One person *might* have most of these skills, but they won’t all be with the latest versions and packages.

    Amazon is not to blame. It, instead, lies squarely on executive officers who see IT as nothing but a cost center.

    • Triple thumbs up! Companies rarely seem to do things because it’s a good idea for the long term or the right or ethical thing to do; they seem to wait until what they’ve done comes back to bite them in the butt, and they HAVE to do something.

  2. I said it long time ago that in a near future, if not now, it will be almost impossible to find technical people here in the USA thanks to the grid of companies which want only profits and not spending. If to their grid we add how expensive is tuition at all universities and technical schools the result is a down slide of the once USA technical know how.

    • Yea, it’s definitely a problem. With 10 years experience at a company with hundreds of fbsd/linux web/mail/sql/telcom systems, every position I interview for seems to come down to a series of pass/fail “do you have experience with X -in a corporate environment-“. It seems like “well smtp is smtp, exim isn’t that different than qmail, redhat & centos are both linux I’ve used it at home, there isn’t such a huge difference that I’d have trouble”& “yea, I’ve played around with that on the side in my own time it’s simple” are all fail conditions. Everyone wants an experienced senior admin/developer/dba rolled into one with experence in their industry and every one of the exact services they run.

      • Man I can really relate to what you say, I see it all over dice. I’ve been putting my name in the hat anyways and let them call me if they think it may be a good fit or if they are having trouble finding that perfect candidate….laid off on 1-24 and still looking for a good opportunity.

  3. Speaking as one who was displaced three different times by outsourcing infrastructure services as well as the cloud computing, I whole heartedly agree with Cicuta. Universities are not only expensive, the great majority of them are severely lacking in up-to-date technology development or application development languages. Most teach a coding class in the first two years then move to “theory” thereafter. There are few “specialty” schools who maintain leading edge technology courses. The US has sold the farm and now is dependent upon outside sources to feed the family, all in the name of profit margins.

    • You don’t learn how to do a job in school. At best, you gain the framework to enable you to learn how to do the job. You learn how to do the job by doing the job. Except for the fact I could put it on my resume and thus get the right interviews, from a pure human capital POV, college was a big waste of time.

  4. Tom Brown

    Companies here in the US started this displacement of the “American born” worker sometime ago by requiring more efficient and newer ways of technology to make them more globally successful —but then not providing avenues for upgrading the existing IT teams skill sets and advancing their knowledge for the future to come! Also, some of the technology training that is required is not as advanced here, in the states. I might add that these companies also have dependencies on the “American” worker to a degree to purchase their products and/or services while displacing them at the same time. Hard lined or not, companies need to realize that IT provides business critical support services to the entire company regardless of the fact that IT may just be a “Cost Center” and that these job roles (i.e.Systems Admins/ Engineers—) are still and will be very very critical to maintain and support especially in hosted service data centers where the end result of support should be “lights out” technology/support———these require some form of virtual-remote support and/or on some occasions onsite physical-infrastructure support.

  5. The only realistic way to become an entry level Linux admin is if you setup and run your Linux server-farm at home + read and practice. I haven’t read this simple statement anywhere yet. I think it’s true.

    • Yes very true Emilov, however, where do you have the funds to run farms. Having a few virtual machines running on a few desktop based systems at home does not simulate a server farm. But yeah its definitely a start.

    • MoChaMan

      Emilov – you’re right. At school, they teach you sorting algorithms and Big O notation. Everything I actually use as a systems engineer I learned at Barnes & Noble with a cup of coffee at my side, then building my own software in PERL on an old Red Hat Linux 7 server.

      Regarding this article, I also agree. The systems role is disappearing outside of cloud providers because everyone can just go to the cloud. Amazon and Rackspace will be the last employers for SysAdmins. I think the strategy should be to maintain a small internal data center for critical tasks ( and training ) and using the clouds for the front line production sites.