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Is System Administration Bound for Extinction?

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Article from ADMIN 54/2019
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Writers and tech journalists have predicted for years that the system administrator role is an endangered species, with extinction just around the corner. Are they right?

Spoiler. They're wrong. I've read dozens of articles over the past 10 years that predict everything from the death of the desktop computer to the extinction of my ilk (system administrator). It's not happening. No amount of artificial intelligence, automation, cloud, or so-called zero administration efforts will ever wipe out our kind. The only thing, perhaps, that can eradicate our Administraticus systemus is multiple Chicxulub-class meteors simultaneously landing on every Amazon data center. And I'm not even sure that would do it.

The reason for my positive outlook for system administrators is simple. You can't do away with the human element in decision making – not completely, at least. You can build all kinds of automation into repetitive tasks, you can automate deployment, you can automate provisioning, and you can streamline just about every system administration task you can imagine, but you still won't kill off the need for someone sitting at a keyboard making decisions.

My opinion is mostly opposite that of everything you read or hear, but I can prove my point with a single example: patching. Yes, you can automate patching, and some patching automation is good, but what happens when a bad patch is released that kills computers? Your automation intelligence won't catch that. It takes a person to scan the patch documentation and decide on relevance and timing for applying those patches. You'll also need a person to apply patches to test environments and perform regression testing to see whether the patches work on your systems.

If you're now asking why you wouldn't have a managed service provider (MSP) take care of all that for you, you've probably found the answer to my point: What happens when a patch causes a problem for your managed systems? It does happen. I've been the victim more than once. The answer is that you're going to want to call a person with fingers on a keyboard who can fix your services – a system administrator with

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