Collaboration in system administration

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Georg e was in trouble. A seemingly simple deployment was taking all morning, and there seemed no end in sight. His manager kept coming in to check on his progress, as the customer was anxious to have the deployment done. He was supposed to be leaving for a goodbye lunch for a departing co-worker, adding to the stress. He had called in all kinds of help, including colleagues, an application architect, technical support, and even one of the system developers. He used email, instant messaging, faceto-face contacts, his phone, and even his office mate's phone to communicate with everyone. And George was no novice. He had been working as a Web-hosting administrator for three years, and he had a bachelor's degree in computer science. But it seemed that all the expertise being brought to bear was simply not enough. Why was George in trouble? We'll find out. But first, why were we watching George? George is a system administrator, one of the people who work behind the scenes to configure, operate, maintain, and troubleshoot the computer infrastructure that supports much of modern life. Their work is critical-and expensive. The human part of total system cost-of-ownership has been growing for decades, now dominating the costs of hardware or software. © 2011 ACM.


01 Jan 2011