Life as a Linux system administrator

Linux system administration is a job. It can be fun, frustrating, mentally challenging, tedious, and often a great source of accomplishment and an equally great source of burnout. That is to say, it's a job like any other with good days and with bad. Like most system administrators, I have found a balance that works for me. I perform my regular duties with varying levels of automation and manual manipulation and I also do a fair amount of research, which usually ends up as articles. There are two questions I'm going to answer for you in this article. The first is, "How does one become a system administrator?," and second, "What does a Linux system administrator do?".

Becoming a system administrator

Since there's no Linux system administrator college major and no real learning track for Linux system administrators, how does one become a Linux system administrator? Most Linux system administrators (SAs) entered the field by accident. No, seriously. Just ask one. Some SAs took up Linux as a sideline, to their duties as Unix SAs, as interest and adoption grew in the late 1990s. As Linux became a data center standard and the various Unix "flavors" waned in popularity, those who'd dabbled in it were converted to Linux administrators out of need.

For new Linux administrators, many enter the job from their interests as home enthusiasts, gamers, or clandestine administrators of college servers. This is how it happened for me. As soon as I saw Linux for the first time in 1995, I was hooked. By January of 1996, I had started the local Linux User's Group (LUG) here in Tulsa, Oklahoma, much to the chagrin of the Unix Special Interest Group (Unix SIG). 

My beginnings with Linux were rocky. I first ran across Linux in a magazine where I could purchase a 2 CD set in early 1995 when I worked at WorldCom (Yes, that WorldCom). I installed a group FTP/download server for my desktop support group coworkers. A few weeks later, I was told by one of the "gurus" in another group, "We don't allow Lye-nix on our network." I wasn't convinced of course that it mattered what was allowed and what was not, so I kept the server but installed Samba on it and changed daemon header information to make it look like my little system was a Windows server.


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