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Sun Microsystems

The Days of SysAdmin Numbered? 651

gmkeegan writes "The Economist is running a story about Sun's new N1 operating system whose purpose is to make today's system administrators redundant. The idea is to virtualize the computer system so that the automated resource management software can add, remove and manage everything dynamically. The article mentions similar efforts by IBM, HP, and Microsoft."
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The Days of SysAdmin Numbered?

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  • So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by adamwright ( 536224 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:05PM (#4314511) Homepage
    Who manages the management system?
    • by t0qer ( 230538 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:23PM (#4314718) Homepage Journal
      Someone else...

      I've watched a lot of people get canned here in S.V. who were sysadmins, now scrambing to get jobs wherever they can. There are 3 trends I've seen companies follow when it came to cutting IT costs.

      A. Eliminate all the IT personal with .com inflated salaries by making IT a part of developments job function.
      B. Outsource IT
      C. Replace IT with cheaper, less expirienced youngsters.

      This is mainly a M$ oriented trend though (Yes I admit to being a MS admin) There are a few people I know that are unix oriented people who will never be without a job. Contrary to popular belief, these are not dirty hippies, but people with 4 year CS degree's. When I listen to them talk I feel a bit intimidated because I'm still having trouble grasping pipe/redirects >| in a shell.

      Anyways, back on topic though, the article makes no mention of M$ anywhere.. It all mentions datacenters and how there is this huge need to get rid of the playstation junkies taking care of their servers. I think the author has me confused with real die hard sun unix lovers.

      Bottom line is this "virtual serverization" (whatever the marketdroid buzzword is, save it) Sun seems out to get rid of all the Solaris admins out there. What surprises me is most solaris admins I know are a lot more compentant than myself, and go way beyond telling someone to reboot their machine.

      I doubt it will work.
      • by Amiga Trombone ( 592952 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:53PM (#4315004)
        I doubt it will work.

        I wouldn't be too sure about that. Before I bacame a Unix admin, I worked with mainframes. A lot of the various jobs that I had as an operator, a scheduler and DASD manager, have all been automated out of existence. I kept my job on the strength of learning how to admin the various automation packages. Everyone said that would never work either. All the same, I saw the operations staff reduced from 20 people per shift to 4 in the space of about 18 months.

        This feels like deja vu. I had a feeling this would happen sooner or later.

        Liberty in Our Lifetime [freestateproject.org]
    • Re:So... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mike77 ( 519751 )
      exactly. My parents work for a phone company as 411 operators, and a while back they tried going to the automated system. Big suprise, how many times do you call 411 and instead of the computer finishing everything, an operator clicks over and does it. Why? because whenever people are the source of input, etc. No automated system will EVER be able to deal w/ all of the problems that crop up. The human management element will NEVER be able to be completely removed, I'm sorry, it just won't happen.
  • Sure ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vlad_petric ( 94134 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:05PM (#4314515) Homepage
    In the early 90s the days of the programmers were numbered.

    Vlad

  • by caluml ( 551744 ) <slashdot@noSPaM.spamgoeshere.calum.org> on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:05PM (#4314520) Homepage
    Who's going to delete stuff randomly?
  • by csnydermvpsoft ( 596111 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:06PM (#4314523) Homepage
    For this to work, there needs to be a very big advance in the area of AI. Otherwise, if anything breaks in a way not forseen by the designers, there would need to be a sysadmin to fix it.

    This is more a marketing ploy than anything else.
  • Still... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by intermodal ( 534361 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:06PM (#4314532) Homepage Journal
    this implies that there is management who can handle running this, or want to. most Managers don't know networking from a hole in the ground. Somebody's gotta set up the desktops and workstations, and keep them running...even if the software can handle it, hardware needs troubleshooting every now and then too
    • Somebody's gotta set up the desktops and workstations, and keep them running...even if the software can handle it, hardware needs troubleshooting every now and then too

      Easy you buy a support contract from sun, MS, HP, or IBM. Sysadmins will always be around just in-house sysadmins will be a thing of the past. There should be no reason a small (< 100 employee) company would need IT.

      Seriously wouldn't you rather work for sun as a support technician that Company XYZ doing sysadmin work?
    • I think the confusion here is caused by the ambiguous definition of "sysadmin". I believe the sysadmin that Sun is shooting for is more the "set up and keep the big hardware running" type of sysadmin. Not the captain helpdesk guy who sets up pc's and fields stupid questions. If you're setting up desktops and workstations, I'd say your a help desk support person, not a sysadmin.
  • by T3kno ( 51315 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:07PM (#4314533) Homepage
    I'm still fielding questions about power buttons, dirty mice, and saving documents. I'll be around for a long long long time.
    • Re:Yeah, Right... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kfg ( 145172 )
      You're absolutely correct, but when your job consists solely of those items you'll be making a couple of bucks over minimum wage.

      When the elite becomes commonplace so does the salary. Every CS degree times every "ease of use" advancement equals a devaluation of the labor.

      This is nothing new. The first few operators of a cotton gin were highly paid specialists, now it's unskilled labor delegated to the 'kid' who just applied for work.

      Get used to it, if you're under 25 you may have to live through the same cycle three more times in your working lifespan.

      KFG
  • uh huh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Em Emalb ( 452530 ) <ememalb.gmail@com> on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:08PM (#4314541) Homepage Journal
    And just who do they think is gonna make sure the machines are doing their job properly?

    gone? Nah. Changing? Yeah, everyday.
  • Scenario (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:08PM (#4314548)
    CEO: Cindy, get me Fred, this N1 software is crashing.

    Cindy: You fired Fred last week.

    CEO: Ummmm, Cindy, you've been promoted to sysadmin.
    • CEO: Cindy, get me Fred, this N1 software is crashing.

      Cindy: You fired Fred last week.

      CEO: Ah! So that's why the system stayed up a whole week!
  • by Oliver Wendell Jones ( 158103 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:09PM (#4314553)
    All the CEOs and VPs with their MBAs are going to see these new systems and immediately replace the existing technology and start firing SysAdmins... then (I'm going to guess here) 41 days later they'll all be sitting in their offices asking out loud "what's wrong with the e-mail?" or "why can't I log in?"

    Then they'll call up the old SysAdmins and offer to hire them back at hopefully double the salary.

    You never really know how much you need something until it's gone.
    • by xtremex ( 130532 ) <cguru.bigfoot@com> on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:33PM (#4314810) Homepage
      Unfortunately, that happened at my last company..they laid me off (Sr UNIX Admin). I was in charge of their 45 AIX servers. They never went down so they figured I didnt do anything :) When I got laid off a year ago, the NEXT day they had a hardware problem. However, they have a clause where they never rehire people as perms or consultants that were laid off, for whatever reason...so they hired a 2-bit MS Admin to do it. I'm still in contact with some people there, and they tell me they are having problems up the wazoo. And they can't find talented UNIX admins for the price they will pay (VERY LOW!!). So, if you're a talented AIX admin with at least 6 years experience and will work for $40,000 in NYC, let me know, and I'll send them your resume :).
      • On a lesser scale I was an admin at a small company. After a few closed door meetings (without me) about how I really don't do anything they laid me off. This company relies on its internet connection just as much if not more than most small business. After dealing with the Northpoint bankrupcy I made an effort to provide an ISDN backup in case of DSL problems (no they werent paying for a T1). Its a simple set-up, if the DSL fails then you tell the netopia to use the ISDN. A couple weeks after I left the DSL card in the netopia died and according to someone there 'we had no internet for four days.'

        Heh, serves em right. Whatever genius outsourcers theyre using didn't notice the obvious ISDN connection on the back of the router. Not to mention it was documented and I certainly wasn't the only one to know about it. Perhaps the netopia interface was too confusing?
  • well I have several other titles includeing MIS Manager Progamer and Facilities Manager (if anyone figured out I work at a non profit, give yourself a pat on the back). But really my least favorite task is sysadmin and if my staff is missing, help desk. If I could get rid of that I could work on moreproductive things and less fixing things that are already broke!

    YEAH!!!

    oh yeah I forgot to mention. a cold day in hell when this happens.
  • by CrayzyJ ( 222675 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:09PM (#4314556) Homepage Journal
    In large server farms you need people their just to change the hard drives frequently. Furthermore, the boxes will still need to be configured, benchmarked, monitored.

    This just sounds like the Economist was angling for readers.
  • by plumby ( 179557 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:09PM (#4314560)
    This seems to be nothing more than glorified load balancing.
  • I think not. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Psiren ( 6145 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:10PM (#4314564)
    Automating some of the work that a Sysadmin has to do won't make them redundant. Theres always something else to do. And anyone trusting the system to work correctly on its own with no human overseeing it is just asking for trouble.
  • Traditional sys-admin tasks are already in decline. Consider Windows NT/2000. Sure, it takes expertise to run it well, but was easier to get going and keep limping along than what came before. Consider even the evolution of Linux distibutions, and the pressure that has put on traditional UNIX vendors.
  • If MS knows its customers (and they do), they know that the admins are their biggest boosters in corporations. The MS corp relies on its techies to tell it what to do. These techies are wannabe techies who just go MS (the way people used to go IBM).

    Suits everyone (suits and MIS drones) fine, since everyone feels comfortable going MS and crucifying every other option that competes with MS (makes them look knowledgeable and valuable). I've experienced this half-wit MIS attitude first-hand.

    No, MS is not eliminating their bread and butter. It's not the execs, it's the pushover MIS department which relies on MS for its credentials, credibility, and credit accounts.

    Sun has found a sweet spot to attack MS. That sweet spot is MS's Cost Of Ownership.

    Best luck to Sun et al..
  • by sjlutz ( 540312 )
    Not very worried about all this. This is all marketing stuff.

    Inside Sun Product Management Meeting:

    Product Mgr: "Why are people going to buy this? I mean, they have systems that work now. They have a staff to make the systems work. Why are they going to spend the thousands of dollars for this?"

    Marketing Manager: "Ok. here it is. If they buy our software, for say, $1,000,000, the can then reduce their staff by 5 people. That's only half the people they had. So, they say $500k per year with out software, so it pays for itself in 2 years. "

    Product Manager: "Ok. So who installs it"

    Marketing Manager: "Oh we've got specialized people for that, only $4k per day."

    etc.....etc...etc..
  • by sphealey ( 2855 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:11PM (#4314592)
    If the report had stated that IBM and Sun were working on this problem, I might have considered it a bit. But adding Microsoft in there makes the whole thing laughable. Since the days of Novell 3.11, adding Microsoft products to the networking mix has automatically tripled the sysadmin workload. Maybe not for the first six months, but starting as soon as there is a problem / something changes / the needs grow. Then - kabam! - massive problems which can only be fixed with (surprise) more Microsoft products and MCSEs.

    The idea that Microsoft could automate this function makes me laugh. I guess it could install Microsoft Wallet and have it deduct the cost of the next round of upgrades from your bank account automatically...

    sPh

  • Just like... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by brooks_talley ( 86840 ) <brooks&frnk,com> on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:12PM (#4314603) Journal
    ...computer management of cars has obsoleted all auto mechanics. ...food processors put every chef out of a job. ...handwriting recognition eliminated postal workers. ..."eliza" makes George Bush irrelevant.

    Hmm. On second thought...

    -b
    • by American AC in Paris ( 230456 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @05:18PM (#4315199) Homepage
      ..."eliza" makes George Bush irrelevant.

      Kofi Annan: Again, Mr. Bush, I implore you. Please reconsider taking unilateral action against Iraq!
      George Eliza Bush: What makes you think I'm taking unilateral action against Iraq?
      KA: Your insistence on impossible timelines, your unflagging determination to find reason to invade...
      GEB: Tell me more about my impossible timelines.
      KA: You know fully well what I am referring to, Mr. Bush. Respectfully, I ask that you show some moderation in your demands. Your current course of action will serve only to alienate your nation from the global community...
      GEB: But why do you think that my current course of action will serve only to alienate my nation from the global community?

      ...you may be on to something. Eliza certainly wouldn't go around inventationalizing wordages and grammarcism, at the leastly.

  • by Frobnicator ( 565869 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:13PM (#4314606) Journal
    From the article
    N1 will make it much easier to run corporate data centres--thus eliminating much of the work now done by armies of systems administrators.

    Since most business is small business, it doesn't change anything. As everyone has already pointed out, who will administer the adminstration tools? Who will fix the hardware problems? Who will run the wires or set up the WAP?

    And for those of us who read the article, it is time to buy your Elvis white & rhinstone suit...

  • by bildstorm ( 129924 ) <peter.buchy@NOSpAm.shh.fi> on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:13PM (#4314607) Homepage Journal

    Before Chicken Little comes and shouts that the sky is falling, I would dare say that this is just an extension of a trend that's been there.

    As even simply part of a sales strategy, companies have been working on making things easier. Yes, sometimes this results in inadequate software, but in the market in general this makes it far easier to get companies to upgrade, update, and use new software. I don't know if the performance benefits are really great, but I know that companies have been working to cut down redundancies.

    Does this mean that there won't be system administrators anymore? No. But I would say that system administrators are resources used up in ways secretaries used to. I remember when everybody wrote things by hand and gave them to secretaries to type up in offices. Now because people have better typing skills and typing is more important to even access information, there are fewer secretaries. Many secretaries are now far more multi-functional, handling numerous tasks in an office. The same will happen with system adminstrators.

    Gone will be the days of hiding back in the server room with arcane tasks. There will be more work handling information patterns and purchasing and securing things, and less in the day-to-day routine kill of processes, recovering files for idiot users, and so on.

    Personally, I hope the same will happen for programmers, so we stop calling simple coders programmers and go back to real work in programming.

  • Similar Efforst (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ACNeal ( 595975 )
    I like that line about similar efforts by Microsoft.

    That is their whole argument for the low total cost of ownership of NT/2000/XP, isn't it. That anyone can run it, so you don't need a sys admin.

    Even if I can plug in a printer, and the network knows its there, or add disks, or whatever, who is going to add users? Who is going to design the security policies/system? This is mostly what a sys admin does, with the hardware and resource problems being the monotony that keeps him loathing his job.

    Even if someone else takes up the now reduced task of system administration, there will still be a system administrator. It just may be a president/sysadmin, or a CIO/sysadmin.

    And then what happens when the automated management doesn't manage properly?

    I think XP/NT is about as far removed from human intervention as you can get, really. Maybe slightly more automation in the hardware department, but not a whole lot else, unless I am missing something.
    • Actually I would argue that OS X is much futher removed from user intervention than XP/NT. Simplest example is uninstalling programs. At the same time it allows far more user intervention if the users want it.

      It's the best of both worlds, and I think more people should check it out.
  • Not bloody likely (Score:3, Insightful)

    by afidel ( 530433 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:13PM (#4314624)
    When a client can't articulate a need well enough for a seasoned sysadmin to decypher it most of the time how do they think that a PHB will be able to get the automanglement software to do what he wants? This might put reboot monkeys out of a job but it will not put many real sysadmins onto the streets.
  • by DarkHelmet ( 120004 ) <mark.seventhcycle@net> on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:14PM (#4314626) Homepage
    Brings new meaning to "Go Away or I will replace you with a very small shell script [thinkgeek.com]"
  • by gUmbi ( 95629 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:14PM (#4314629)
    Here's how I see it:

    1. Story gets posted to Slashdot
    2. Website is bombarded with requests
    3. Operating system automatically requisitions 5 new Sun E4500 servers to handle the load
    4. Sun stock stays listed in on Nasdaq for one more day

    Jason.

  • This is the same thing posted numerous times about making virual systems, or for all purposes automated clustering software.

    Now, how is making things terribly more complex going to reduce the need for admins? Bad article.
  • But of course, I don't see anything about the system performing offsite backups, doing it's own disaster recovery plan, training new users, and, of course resource planning.

    This is a total fluff piece. The only 'innovation' I see here is smarter storage reallocation. Storage reallocation is, at a best, grunt work. Good riddance to it!
  • It seems Sun's software is only making software configuration for a given set of strictly defined tasks easier. Sysadmins also spend a lot of time: 1. installing hardware properly (You think a biz manager would ever bother to put your servers in a nice air-conditioned room with good labelling and tie-wrapped cables? I don't think so.), 2. doing application support, 3. writing scripts that perform special business-specific functions, and 4. installing and configuring weird software packages that won't ever be self-configuring.

    So if Sun wants to make certain resources self-configuring, that's great. It'll mean that sysadmins will have a bit more time to do a quality job on their other duties. I don't think too many people are going to lose their jobs.
  • I would really like to know what self respecting sysadmin is going to promote a piece of software that is designed to eliminate thier job?

    I can hear it now

    "No, this software is buggy, it is full of security holes, etc......."

    Im a sysadmin, singin' my little song, doin' my little dance.
  • Frod automotive announced the production of a car today that features all of the features of a skilled mechanic, global parts fabricator, and a v8 engine.

    "That's right", said the Frod rep. "Our new car can fix itself whenever it breaks, up to and including fixing all parts of the car, fixing the things that fix things, and manufacturing spare parts. And this is just the prototype! We're anticipating that the next model will upgrade itself for free so you never need to buy a new car again, as well as absorbing gasoline from the air! You'll never need to go to a parts store, gas station, car dealership, or auto mechanic again."

  • This news would be more impressive if I had not been hearing it for the last twenty years. Every time that one of these vendors comes out with something new to make my life easier, I have to hire another person to take care of it.

    If my life gets any easier, I'll have more I.T. people than I have customers.
  • I see a lot of comments about how individuals will still be around in the future to set up desktops or locate power buttons, etc. Well, this article didn't say those jobs were targetd for 'obsoletion', just the system administrator job. Look at this from the suits view:

    1 Help Desk person $25K/yr*
    1 System Admin $50K/yr*

    *these numbers are based on the salary levels for the State I work for.

    For the price system admin I can have 2 help desk people to field all the calls and set up desktops, and if there is a problem, I've got the power/knowledge of Big Vendor to rely on.

    Its all about trimming budgets and pocketing bonuses.
  • Automation routines such as these will not eliminate the roll of the SysAdmin, nor will the same number of SysAdmins be needed if these routines take off...

    What will actually happen is that the jobs of SysAdmins would become simpler, resulting in the need for fewer high-level administrators... Sure, we will still need to exist to fix the simple problems of saving files, cleaning mice, etc... but IF administration is simplified, THEN the manpower required to administer will be reduced....

    This is another case of an article(or even headline) making an extreme statement, then Slashdotters saying "oh no, this will never happen, the exact opposite must be true because we can give examples where the extreme statement mentioned in the headline is not true!"

    There *can exist* a middleground!

  • Sysadmin AI (Score:4, Funny)

    by unsinged int ( 561600 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:20PM (#4314686)
    Boss: "N1, I'd like to install Windows on 10 machines today."

    N1: "I'm sorry, Dave. I can't do that."

    Boss: "Why not?"

    N1: "I can only install more of N1."

    Boss: "Oh. I'd better rehire our old sysadmin then and have him do it."

    N1: "I can't let you do that, Dave. Your email priviledges are now removed. Have a nice day."
  • Zero admin (Score:2, Insightful)

    by octalgirl ( 580949 )
    I've been hearing this for twenty years. While the introduction of electronic computing has affected many positions along the way by automating various tasks, those behind the wheel will always be the last to go. They may make cars that fly one day, but someone will still have to build it, and someone else needs to drive it. And by the time the average homeowner loses their fear of flying around like the Jetsons, they will invent something else. Savvy admins will always keep their eye on the next big thing and be ready to jump.

    I loved Microsoft's take on a 'zero-administration' environment. This from a company that cannot easily allow you to import a thousand accounts from a another database, like payroll. And I have never had to write so many damn scripts since I was writing batch files in the DOS days. Zero-admin ..yeah.
  • Yay! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Alan Shutko ( 5101 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:20PM (#4314691) Homepage
    At 3am when their pager doesn't go off... when there is in fact no pager, sysadmins will give a great cry of thanks at being rendered obsolete.

  • I still have question like, how do I create a signature in my outlook. and why doesn't my outlook complete all my e-mail addresses instead of some. or my computer wont turn on (turn yoru monitor on). perhaps Sun may automate many of our tasks but eliminate sysadmins. Not ever.
  • Introducing MS Bob 2003!!!
  • I was once at a Microsoft thing where they made the same claims. "With our new stuff you won't need a sys admin."

    They were hyping Windows for Workgroups.
  • by AtariDatacenter ( 31657 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:23PM (#4314712)
    I think the aim of N1 isn't to replace the systems administrator, but rather, reduce the numbers of systems administrators needed for a large datacenter. Like automate the process of setting up new servers. Patch management. Compliance with FCO (field change orders). That kind of thing. (And probably more.) Come with things like Sun's CST (configuration service tracker) and what not. Make things much simpler to run with less people.
  • Hasn't Microsoft promised the same thing for Windows?

    Look where we are now. Everyone's a sysadmin, installing operating system patches, and there's nobody with some clue to ask if anything goes wrong.
  • "The Automated Admin has noticed you are 90% of capacity on your user volume, and has taken the liberty of ordering 20 terabytes of storage from the vendor.

    Have a nice day."
  • by AHumbleOpinion ( 546848 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:27PM (#4314760) Homepage
    Given the number of unpatched hole-ridden mis-configured servers out there this would eliminate the most unreliable component. Average real-world sysadmin != Slashdot idealized sysadmin.
  • by sys49152 ( 100346 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:37PM (#4314854)
    I was at the (nicely done) Sun Network show last week in SF, and I went to the N1 announcment. What a snooze-fest. They start off claiming that they will virtualize the OS. In the future, if you need more compute resources, you'll just throw another box into the rack, no OS configuration, not even an IP address.

    Of course, they'r enot quite there yet. They've been at it for close to two years now, and it seems that all they have is some IT management solution. Yawn. Not only that, the plan goes three years out before they reached the vision mentioned above. And even then it's Sun hardware only.

    Business 2.0 quoted someone as saying that if Sun doesn't make N1 work, they will simply fade away. Well, maybe they'll make it work, but will anyone care. I'm not sure Sun has three years left. With Intel eating at its HW revenue and Linux slurping up the software revenue, and no services arm to speak of. Man, I don't see Sun's future. It's not N1, anyway.
  • Of course (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ed Avis ( 5917 ) <ed@membled.com> on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:43PM (#4314910) Homepage
    Sure, this will make system administrators obsolete, just as we don't need programmers any more now that we have compilers and RAD tools.
  • by Tsali ( 594389 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:45PM (#4314930)
    ... an annual subscription of $50,000/year/box.

  • Good for Sysadmins (Score:5, Insightful)

    by photon317 ( 208409 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:51PM (#4314983)

    They're not out to eliminate the sysadmin, they're just trying to "do it right", to do the things that many intelligent sysadmins do already. It will eliminate some sysadmin jobs, where departments had too many people because their processes were inefficient, but the good sysadmins will still have jobs.

    I've seen some companies running a unix datacenter with 100 machines and 30 unix admins, which is just crazy. Other places, I've seen 1000 machines run by 5 guys, which is how it should be. The guys at the smart places write good management scripts, and know how to scale their management of the systems well. Sun is just trying to encapsulate these things so that even the companies too dumb to do it on their own can now have such benefits.
  • by nomadicGeek ( 453231 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:51PM (#4314986)
    The new systems learn at a geometric rate. At 9:23 am on Feb 23rd the systems become self-aware, a now jobless sysadmin tries to unplug the system. The system retaliates.

    Jump forward to 2025. The remnants of humanity, all previously sysadmins, build a cyborg and send it into the past to kill the co-founders of Sun Microsystems before they can build their self administering systems.
  • by Conare ( 442798 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @04:57PM (#4315035) Journal
    Instead of having to load and configure software manually, they tell N1 to set up a computer system for them--which, assuming it actually works, takes hours rather than weeks.
    Well, well where to begin?

    Is this like ghosting [symantec.com] an existing configuration? If so I have never seen a ghost image take weeks.

    How do you tell it what you want on the system? Set up an initial system and then copy [symantec.com] it?

    Who makes the configuration decisions that are normally made during a manual install?

    What software takes weeks to install?

    Why did I let this stupid, impractical, fact-lean marketing ploy make me late for dinner?

  • Nerd! Cooperate. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ISPTech ( 76854 ) <isptech151&yahoooooooo,com> on Monday September 23, 2002 @05:05PM (#4315088) Homepage
    "But the biggest challenge, says Yousef Khalidi, chief technology officer for N1, was in packaging the technology. It will only be adopted if the nerds who run corporate systems co-operate, which they might not do if it creates too rapid change or even loses them their job."

    Er...come again? What part about your product is supposed to make me want to install it? The fact you called me a nerd, or the fact that so far all you have is marketing hype and no real product? ...or maybe it was the fact your goal is to replace me instead of work with me to fix the problems you have with your EXISTING products?

    I'm not going anywhere for a while, but you may be looking for a new job in the near future. What was your username?

    G

  • Economist troll (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Parsec ( 1702 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @05:45PM (#4315417) Homepage Journal

    I know a few so-called-nerds who could kick this so-called-journalist's arse. It's a troll, people; but it's also a troll that has the ear of management wonks who may listen. If you're a small department without an IT manager, it would serve you well to work on educating the decision makers as to what your job entails, your job responsibilities as defined by management and also good system administrator practices, and how you're overworked as it is. Frame it so they don't think that this system (if it works) will save them expensive wages, but it will improve their IT department's customer service and add value to the organization by giving them more time to research and impliment new technologies.

    Anyone smell vapor? If it can automatically reconfigure machines for demand, what happens when the demand switches throughout the day (IE email in the morning, pr0n filtering at lunch, and facilities management systems just before punchout)? How long does it take to reconfigure a machine? What if you get a DOS attack aimed to entice this management software to start reconfiguring a bunch of machines? What if it's a DOS attack from inside the firewall?

    The system is supposed to save "days" of machine-configuration time, but how often do you configure new servers? If you were deploying a commodity system (could custom systems be automated?), wouldn't you use a system image or other running system as a base?

  • by ozbird ( 127571 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @05:48PM (#4315437)
    So sysadmins are now the Knights who say N1?

    "We want ... a 5hrubbery!"
  • Seriously, I had people tell me that they wouldn't need any "systems administrators" because it was "just like Windows". Heck... anyone could administer it. This was from a middle school principal. Who last year paid our company several thousand dollars to set up his Win2K middle school lab so that his students couldn't fsck it up.
  • by chriskenrick ( 89693 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @07:55PM (#4316232)
    Seems like there's a lot of hype and misunderstanding about what this is all about. The journalist writing the article didn't help any, as he didn't seem to understand what this is about either. I work for a company that writes this sort of software, so I should know something about this...

    Firstly, this is not really designed for desktop machines, as I understand. The main focus is servers. You link a whole bunch of servers together, set some sort of global policy rules (eg the web server can have as much CPU on as many machines as it wants), and its up to this smart software to intelligently enforce the policy.

    Secondly, presuming the software has a fairly substantial cost per seat, who's going to use it on a set of workstations where you can't even predict whether they're going to be turned on or not. Unless you're running really CPU intensive stuff that can be parallelised really well, then what's the point?

    Thirdly, I don't think many sysadmins are going to find themselves out of work due to this. There's going to need to be intelligent thought put into setting up this "global policy" stuff in the first place, and both admin and business will need to cooperate to work it out...
  • I know! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Dthoma ( 593797 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @08:03PM (#4316282) Journal
    Why don't we just get rid of the users instead?
  • by Piquan ( 49943 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @08:24PM (#4316394)
    My friends at work and I were discussing this type of "solution", the ones with marketing hype like "Buy this product, and you won't need a sysadmin!" Yeah, right. We decided it might be easier to make a product that replaces CEOs. I took ALICE [sourceforge.net] (an Eliza-like bot), and modified it so that when it didn't understand what was going on, it would spout Dilbertian managementspeak.
  • by HiThere ( 15173 ) <charleshixsn AT earthlink DOT net> on Monday September 23, 2002 @09:25PM (#4316757)
    ...while walking past the graveyard.

    Things that were difficult become easy. Live with it. I started as a programmer on an IBM 7094. Fortran II was the in thing, but if you wanted to run a large program you wrote it in FAP or MAP, because computation was expensive, and assembler was faster.

    The last assembler I even looked at was for CP/M. and then I was only writing a serial port driver for a terminal that had a second I/O port (for an auxillary printer).

    Now I've pretty much dropped C in favor of Python and Ruby (due to company policies, I pretty much missed most of Java).

    The jobs change! When I got into the programming profession in 1970 (approx.) I expected the profession to last about 20 years. I consider myself to have been exceptionally fortunate that it's lasted until now. True, it's meant I had to use MSAccess, but outside of that...

    And I have done sysadmin work. On a Unix System V Altos box. (I was a pretty crude sysadmin, and I never got any training, but I kept it up, and allowed remote users access to a database that I wrote and maintained. [O, I am the cook, and the captain too, and crew of the Nancy Bell. The bosun tight, and the midshipmite, and the crew of the captains gig.]) I had to wear all the hats on that job. But I did it, and it stayed up.

    That was years ago. Now I'm a programmer again. When they decided they needed a DBA, they hired outside. (Good person, but I wasn't pleased.) I think my boss' boss was empire building, and hiring more expensive people made him look more important, but I'll never find out for sure. Still, I didn't loose. And it might be because I'm getting near retirement.

    Your lives will change! This is but one of the straws in the wind. Accept the fact, and you can get ready for it. Deny it and you will capsize and drown.

    Moore's law is one of the factors here. It is becoming cheaper to use general purpose programs than to write specialized ones that are more efficient. Don't think about shell scripts (though that is where it started). Imagine libraries of shell scripts, with descriptions of what they do. Searchable descriptions. Accessible with an interface similar to Google's. The first versions don't work. The second versions are clumsy. The third versions are limited. The fourth versions... In five or six years, sysadmin won't be a highly skilled job. This has been in progress ever since DEC first wrote the computer installation expert system. This has been in progress ever since the first word processor, or the first spreadsheet. How many secretaries do you see anymore?

    So look for where they won't be heading, and follow your star (if you don't like the job, you can't earn enough to make it a good one).

    E.g.:
    1) I don't have any entreprenurial skills. So I choose the technical path. (Yeah, you can combine them, if you have the right skill set. And the extra skills would have helped me. But that's not who I am. So I picked my career path with that in mind.)
    2) Estimate how long the job will last. I estimated 20 years. I got lucky, and it lasted longer, though it sure did morph in ways that I didn't expect.
    3) Evaluate how much preperation it will take vs. how long it will last. Again I got lucky. By the time I found out that I wasn't cut out to be a mathematician or a physicist, I only needed a couple of courses to become a programmer (well... Statistician, but that was because that title paid $150 a month better. The job was really programmer.)
    4) Start early. I goofed here. I was nearly graduating before I found my mistake. But I got lucky.
    5) Keep you eyes open. The world is an unstable place, and programmers (and sysadmins) are some of the people who are destabilizing it (so don't complain). Tech changes are coming faster all the time, so keep your eyes on what's coming down the path.

    On point 5: The automated sysadmin won't be here in workable form this year. But don't count on model 1 not showing up. And next year model 2, and perhaps 3. That's only two years to get ready, not a lot of time, but probably enough if you start preparing now. The sysadmin jobs won't really start evaporating until model 4 comes out (the one that really starts removing the skills from the job [you just might, however, look at how Mandrake handles the sysadmin task ... and extrapolate a bit]). But within three years you had better have moved to a new job description. Starting now!
  • by defile ( 1059 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @09:28PM (#4316777) Homepage Journal

    "because I had an account on a Sun e10k and I can tell you like clockwork the thing reset every month for a year and then Sun came out and said 'yes, every Sun e10k on the market does this it's bad cache in some form but we don't understand and we suggest installing more a/c. in addition we made all our customers who reported the problem sign an NDA to get support. any questions?'"

  • Dang! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Swami ( 84553 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @09:57PM (#4316908) Homepage

    Days of SysAdmin numbered? Now you tell me, just after renewed my subscription [sysadminmag.com]!

  • by soldack ( 48581 ) <soldacker@yah[ ]com ['oo.' in gap]> on Monday September 23, 2002 @10:04PM (#4316936) Homepage
    Sun acquired Pirus Networks to help them on a chassis with FibreChannel, iSCSI, and perhaps InfiniBand.
    http://www.byteandswitch.com/document.asp?doc_id=2 1423 [byteandswitch.com]

    Before that they picked up Dolphin Interconnect to help them make a 4x (30 Gigabit/sec) InfiniBand Host Channel Adapter.

    Here is an article from an EETimes Network site, CommsDesign with some details.

    http://www.commsdesign.com/news/tech_beat/OEG20020 919S0076 [commsdesign.com]

    It is definitly interesting stuff. Everyone is trying to do Shared I/O and I/O Virtualization; maybe Sun can get it right.
  • Exploit... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Perdo ( 151843 ) on Monday September 23, 2002 @11:06PM (#4317143) Homepage Journal
    Great untill someone finds a hole in N1, then who fixes N1?

    It won't fix itself. It's ability to fix itself will be the first thing a Cracker disables.
  • by Catbeller ( 118204 ) on Tuesday September 24, 2002 @03:36AM (#4317826) Homepage
    Shrinking job markets are funny until your career disappears.

    Ayn Rand's philosophy isn't so palatable when the only job available in twenty years is washing floors at a McDonald's -- maybe. That job could be automated too.

    With jobs being exported overseas, a radical administration gutting unions, job security, medicare, and free schools with such glee, where the hell is anyone supposed to make a living?

    Not everyone has an "in" into Harvard or MIT. And most of the top, top management jobs are practically royalty anyway -- for the ultimate example of that, look in the White House. A dumb frat boy who goofed off until he was forty, a National Guard deserter, who ran every company he touched into the ground, who had only six years of public service to his name, got appointed President by his father's friends into his job.

    This ain't an idle point. Meritocracy can only go so far when business management, in the name of profit, is dilligently nuking all the jobs they can, and erasing the safety nets for those who can't get hired anymore. The shareholders are happy (until the bubble bursts), but in the end we have an unemployed workforce contrasting with the enormously wealthy executives who canned them.

    Where's the software that will get rid of the parasites at the top who pass out the pain? Somehow I doubt that innovative tech will ever see the light of day.

    Damnit, sometimes I feel like going communist. With heroes like this, what the hell is the difference?

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