Linux in Government: Linux System Administrators
According to traditional definitions, such as the one on the Sage Web site, you can find what many people believe fits a Linux system administrator:
system administrator n. a system administrator is one who, as a primary job function, manages computer and network systems on behalf of another, such as an employer or client.
Another page on that site provides classic definitions of UNIX system administrators. Sage divides them into Novice, Junior, Intermediate/Advanced and Senior. You should visit the Sage Web site if you want to look at these definitions.
Fortunately, we do not have to agree with the delineation used by Sage. Instead, we can see Linux administrators as specialists in a variety of areas. For example, a Linux person could be senior in administration of Web sites, networking, interoperability, kernel management, e-mail, network storage or maintaining a development environment. At a minimum, Linux system administrators should know user management, hardware and software maintenance and network administration. From there, a Linux guy probably specializes, as Linux now can be found in so many different areas of information technology, including embedded devices and virtual machines.
Is a Linux system administrator any less proficient if he deals with content management or streaming media servers instead of file and print servers? Undoubtedly, we would have to say no. In the world of Linux 2005, the old rules do not necessarily apply.
If you are looking for someone to manage Linux computer and network systems on behalf of another, such as an employer or client, be prepared. You may discover that the vast majority of Linux system administrators learned their trade on their own networks. Once they gained the knowledge they needed, they may have offered their services for hire.
When you find an appropriate Linux systems administration candidate, recognize that he probably does not fit your mold. But, if you use his skills correctly, he will empower your organization and make everyone around him better. If your are not getting that from your Linux guy, you could be facing one of two issues: your people have closed their minds to what Linux brings or you have the wrong person. You can correct them both.
Tom Adelstein lives in Dallas, Texas, with his wife, Yvonne, and works as a Linux and open-source software consultant with Hiser+Adelstein, headquartered in New York City. He's the co-author of the book Exploring the JDS Linux Desktop and author of an upcoming book on Linux system administration, to be published by O'Reilly and Associates. Tom has been writing articles and books about Linux since early 1999.
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