Disappearing SysAdmins

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Job interviews are not just a big time sink. They are also a great way to learn about trends and fashions in our industry from diverse set of people applying for a job position. A candidate I interviewed yesterday got me thinking about one such trend, the disappearing sysadmins. System administrators were from the dawn of computing the interface between developers and bare metal. They were the ones setting up servers, replacing failing disks, configuring networks, installing system software, and doing everything required so that programmers could concentrate on developing application software. The advent of Internet and the rise of cloud computing is quickly commoditizing infrastructure and rendering classical system administrator jobs no longer necessary.

The response of many system administrators to this trend has been to become interface between developers and the new cloud computing infrastructure. So instead of editing linux or mysql configuration files, they are becoming experts in Amazon Web Services web administration panel. While such role might be necessary at the moment due to immaturity of cloud computing, I have doubts that the role of cloud computing sysadmin will exist for a long time. Personally, I'd advise sysadmins to become full-stack software developers and accept the fact that everything below application layer will eventually become a service entirely managed by third-party providers.

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