Sysadmin, Network Admin? Meet the Cloud Admin

cloud admin

Traditional IT roles mutate as boundaries expand

Once, the territory that belonged to system administrators and network administrators was neatly delineated, writes Lawrence Garvin in But the rise of cloud computing and software-defined infrastructure has blurred traditional boundaries; soon, Garvin says, “we’ll all just be known as ‘cloud administrators,’ with no real distinction between systems and networks.”

Historically, network administrators have handled the infrastructure down to the switches and routers, and sysadmins have focused primarily on software and system configuration and maintenance. But success in either role has always favored those with a broader understanding of the whole ecosystem, Garvin notes.

“Sysadmins who have an understanding of how networks work, including DHCP, DNS, and IP routing, usually have a much easier time diagnosing server and application problems,” Garvin writes. “Likewise, network admins who have an appreciation for the nature of the application traffic flowing across the wires and through the switches typically enjoy much better behaved networks.”

Entire application infrastructures, Garvin points out, depend on optimal network operation. And so the profiles of the two roles are morphing to reflect dimensions of the other.

“Sysadmins,” Garvin writes, “particularly application administrators, must now be cognizant of network technologies and operations. Network administrators who want to keep networks in top shape must now have an awareness of what application traffic is flowing across the network and how to design and implement networks to support those needs.”

He notes that there are divergent trends in the toolsets the two roles employ — sysadmins are rediscovering the efficiency of the command line, while network admins, thanks to cloud management tools, are finally embracing the graphical user interface (GUI).  The question of which will prevail, Garvin leaves unanswered.