December 1, 2011 | Written by: Chris Dotson
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Like many of you, I wear a lot of hats.
Some of my hats. The scale is misleading, though – those hats are actually three feet tall!
I think we all know that people, in general, don’t like change. Today, I’ll be wearing my System Administrator hat, and explaining why, as a sysadmin, I hate the cloud – private cloud, public cloud, all of them – and specifically the infrastructure as a service (IaaS) offerings.
I like building machines, and now I don’t get to do as much of that.
For the physical hardware, it has to be placed in the data center with proper consideration for cooling and cabling, it has to be cabled, all of the fiddly BIOSes, and firmwares must be updated, and of course there’s paperwork and documentation to go along with all of this. Now, with the cloud, I still get to do this for any on-premises cloud equipment, but there’s not as much of it because some workload is moving off-premises and because we’re getting better utilization of the on-premises stuff.
After the physical infrastructure is there, I like to build virtual machines. I tell everyone it’s easy and only takes a few minutes, but I spend quite a bit of my time building those, too. I have to go allocate an IP address, pick the template, clone it, do a little cleanup, set up a few things on it, and of course do the paperwork so I know where things are. Even though the individual steps don’t take much time, it adds up, and it seems like people continue to want more and more virtual machines. I have to admit, it’s nice that the cloud software keeps track of all of the virtual machines for us and does a lot of the “paperwork” automatically, though.
My manager tells me that there will always be plenty of complex tasks to do – although of course the job is always changing – and that my skills will always be in demand as long as those newly automated tasks are not the only things I know how to do. That’s true; I can close my eyes and randomly poke a few keys on the keyboard to create a Perl script that will quickly fix that annoying PAM authentication problem on all of our servers. I excitedly explain this to her, and she then smiles, nods, and walks away muttering about sysadmin types. She mutters a lot around me.
I’m responsible for this infrastructure, but now I’m at the mercy of the cloud software!
I’m willing to be responsible for things when it’s me making the decisions, but after we automate some of these functions (for example, where to place virtual machines, or keeping track of which virtual machines are active), the system might mess up and then I’ll be blamed. I’ve lost control.
The cloud software doesn’t do everything exactly the way I like it. My system configurations and arrangements are a work of art (although occasionally a slightly messy work of art), and this cloud infrastructure is just cold and institutional.
To be fair, I had similar concerns about virtualization technology to some extent, and that seems to have worked fairly well for us (although there are tradeoffs to anything)!
Although I’m not like this guy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BOFH), I do like for people to respect me and need my services.
If anyone not skilled in systems administration can just go and click a few buttons to get a virtual machine, they’ll simply bypass me. I don’t want to end up like the travel agents.
I do get about as many calls as I was getting before, though, and now I’m responsible for 200 systems instead of 20.
I’m going to get hacked! Everyone knows the cloud is insecure.
OK, OK, “cloud” is a broad enough term that we can’t paint all of these technologies with the same brush, but you have to admit there are definite security concerns. As a sysadmin, part of my job is to enforce the security controls, and now we’re having to loosen some of these security controls and change some of our security policies based on what’s happening with cloud. I like the old security controls – I’m comfortable with them, I understand them, and I have a good feel for how much risk we’re taking.
Of course, there were huge security concerns when we plugged into the Internet, too. Some companies have gotten hacked and have lost a huge amount of money or have gone bankrupt, but I guess we had to do that. Perhaps we need to be careful, but not too careful.
If I take the System Administrator hat back off, I can see a lot of excellent business reasons for infrastructure as a service. Silly hats aside, as with any change, it’s important to understand how the different roles in your organization can perceive a change. After you understand that, you can understand why the people in those roles might be resistant to the change – and can help them to understand why the change is necessary and how it will actually affect them.