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Sysadmins: Don’t hide Pantheon from your boss

In a recent blog post, website developer and enthusiast Greg Gomez wrote a review of the Pantheon platform, which concludes with the statement “if you’re a sysadmin and you want to keep your job, hide Pantheon from your boss.

I feel where Greg is coming from, but I want to convince you that Pantheon, Smooth Scaling, and DevOps is about more than replacing any one person's role or responsibilities.

I am a systems operator. I’ve had different titles along the way: sysadmin, solutions engineer, operations engineer, systems engineer, devop, whatnot. At heart though, I’m an operator; applying ‘systems thinking’ to analyze friction-points and bottlenecks that slow down technical systems and development teams, in the face of constant change.

As a systems guy, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard conclusions like Gomez’. Clearly, bottom-line costs are a crucial constraint in software development, especially as projects grow more complex (and more expensive). Personnel costs are a large part of any business, to be sure, and it’s common to hear terms like “Total Cost of Ownership” getting thrown around to describe some of the hidden costs of maintenance and support.

But costs alone only address the bottom line. Smooth scaling through devops is a professional movement that is, in fact, empowering back-office systems administration to increase top-line “Total Value of Ownership”. Don’t hide this from anyone; shout it from the rooftops!

Step back from your terminal, close your eyes, and ask yourself, “How can I create the most value for my self/family/community/business today?”

Now we are getting somewhere! If you honestly answered something along the lines of:

  • Updating sendmail configuration files

  • Applying security updates from yum/apt-get repos

  • Writing perl scripts to parse Apache logs

That’s great! You have a concrete task ahead of you and should be well on your way to realizing the value you are empowered to bring to the table. Good luck; go get 'em.  

However, if those types of tasks don’t align to your core competencies or aren’t something you want to be doing everyday, then your time might be better spent thinking about how to get them out of your day to day responsibilities.

The answer might be to automate those tasks (think Ansible, Chef), investigate other technologies (e.g. Docker), or evaluate SaaS offerings (like Pantheon) to accelerate you on the path to Smooth Scaling, and move on to the next biggest #win. Leave the repetitive tasks to someone or something else (who thinks those are valuable and fun challenges to address).

My conclusion: Go tell your boss about Smooth Scaling today!

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