Technology changes constantly, and the environment around it must change with it. Programs and scripts handle repetitive tasks that were once part of a system administrator’s daily routine. And a single person can fulfil a role that took a team of three or four a decade ago.
Automation tools such as Puppet, Chef and Ansible provide centralised management of system configuration, making things much easier for system administrators.
The next step on this automation journey is the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. There are many ways in which these technologies can be applied to the system administrator role. Log analysis, for example.
Even a small system can produce huge volumes of log data. Most of this information is useless, but pattern analysis can identify problems, or ways to improve performance. Sifting through all this information is one of the most tedious tasks for a system administrator.
AI could also be used to analyse network data for signs that could indicate a security breach, or to scale a system in anticipation of expected usage — predictive provisioning.
Technologies that can monitor, learn about, and modify network environments will revolutionise the system administrator role.
The endpoint of this process is, arguably, that the role of system administrator will cease to exist, but that is unlikely to happen. Machine learning can, and will be, implemented in other spheres of the enterprise. Each of these implementations will have its own challenges: hardware configuration, required technical knowledge; implementation considerations.
These implementations will need system administrators to set them up, configure them, maintain them, and scale them. And with technology handling the more mundane jobs, system administrators will have more time to focus on these (cooler) tasks because they won’t have their heads buried in log files.
In short, automation and machine learning will give system administrators opportunities to reinvent themselves.
Do you think system administrators are becoming obsolete? How could system administrators reinvent themselves as the role changes? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Paessler AG is a networking monitoring specialist via its flagship product PRTG Network Monitor.