Chef or Puppet + IaaS = No More Sysadmins?

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The end of days is nigh for the profession of systems administration according to Julian Dunn, a digital media systems designer and architect.  At a recent meeting of the New York City Linux Users’ Group, a presentation using the configuration management tool, Chef, led him to the conclusion that

IaaS, or “cloud computing”, now allows anyone to provision new (virtual) servers inexpensively. No more waiting around for the system administrator to order a couple servers from Dell, wait a few weeks for them to arrive, rack them up, configure them, etc. Developers, armed with a tool like Chef and its huge cookbook of canned recipes for making many standard infrastructure components, can fire up everything they need to support their application themselves. Therein lies the demise of system administration as a standalone profession and the rise of “devops”. —Julian Dunn

Traditional CM tools have been composed of elaborate prescriptive, rather than descriptive, scripts that are unaware of the underlying semantic meaning of user requests, according to Dunn.  The tools that we’re now associating with DevOps (Puppet, Chef, etc.) allow you to describe your infrastructure in what Dunn refers to as a ‘4th Generation Language’ way.  That simplified process for creating reusable, canned recipies for configuration, paired with IaaS (where you don’t need to worry about the physical setup and configuration), is what could make the Sysadmin, as we know it, obsolete.  This is Dunn’s theory.
With these new opportunities in cloud computing, Dunn sees the benefits of bringing development and system administration together, and suggests that “if sysadmins want to remain relevant, they’ll get on board and start learning a bit more about programming.”  Good point, Dunn, but let’s not forget that, even with cloud services, code ultimately runs on servers/disk/memory. The hardware is never truly “virtual”.
Memfis (Cloud Admin)

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