What is it like to be a SysAdmin in the new DevOps world? Part1

Cloud Native versus Traditional – A framework

In traditional IT, the SysAdmin’s role has been established as supporting the infrastructure in its current dynamic. Being able to consistently stand up architecture in support of new and growing applications, build test/dev environments, and ensure that these are delivered quickly, consistently, and with a level of reliability such that these applications work as designed is our measure of success. Most SysAdmins with whom I’ve interacted have performed their tasks in silos. Network does their job, servers do theirs, and of course storage has their unique responsibility. In many cases, the silos worked at cross purposes, or at minimum, with differing agenda. The rhythms of each group caused for, in many cases, the inability to deliver the agility of infrastructure that the customer required. However, in many cases, our systems did work as we’d hoped, and all the gears meshed properly to ensure our organization’s goals were accomplished.

In an agile, cloud native, devops world, none of these variables can be tolerated. We need to be able to provide the infrastructure to deliver the same agility to our developer community that they deliver to the applications.

How are the applications different than the more traditional monolithic agencies for which we’ve been providing services for so long? The key here is the concepts of containers and micro-services. I’ve spoken of these before, but in short, a container environment involves the packaging of either the entire stack or discrete portions of the app stack which is not reliant necessarily on the operating system or platform on which they sit. In this case, the x86 service is already in place, or can be delivered in generic modes on demand. The application or portions of it can be deployed as the developer creates it, and alternately, removed just as simply. Because there is so much less reliance on the virtually deployed physical infrastructure, the compute layer can be located pretty much anywhere. Your prod or dev environment on premises, your hybrid cloud provider, or even the public cloud infrastructure like Amazon. As long as the security and segmented environment has been configured properly, the functional compute layer and its location are actually somewhat irrelevant.

A container based environment, not exclusively different than a MicroServices based one, delivers an application as an entity, but again, rather than relying on a physical or virtual platform and its unique properties, can sit on any presented compute layer. These technologies, such as Kubernetes, Docker, Photon, Mesosphere and the like are maturing, with orchestration layers and delivery methods far more friendly to the administrator than they’ve been in the past.

In these cases, however, the application platform being delivered is much different than traditional large corporate apps. An old Lotus Notes implementation, for example, required many layers of infrastructure, and in many cases, these types of applications simply don’t lend themselves to a modern architecture. They’re not “Cloud Native.” This is not to disparage how Notes became relevant to many organizations. But the value of a modern architecture, the mobility of the applications, and data locales simply does not support the kinds of infrastructure that an SAP, JDEdwards, etc. type of monolithic architecture required. Of course, these particular applications are solving the cloud issues in different ways, and are still as vital to their organizations as they’d been in the past.

In the following 4 blog postings, I’ll address the architectural/design/implementation issues facing the SysAdmin within the new paradigm that Cloud Native brings to the table. I hope to address those questions you may have, and hope for as much interaction, clarification, and challenging conversation as I can.


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