February 22, 2010
I get the feeling that this will be making the sysadmin-blog rounds :-)
Today's XKCD is excellent, and already has a huge following from the sysadmins on twitter.
The weird sense of duty really good sysadmins have can border on the sociopathic, but it's nice to know that it stands between the forces of darkness and your cat blog's servers.
He's right, of course. Sysadmins in general can develop a hero complex.
It's a complex topic, but the smartest people in systems administration today (read: not me) have been vocal that sysadmin heroism should be discouraged. I can agree with that, to a point. We should never rely on heroism to save the day, because that means our designs have failed. When we stop believing in miracles and start relying on them, we have made bad design decisions and the reliability of our network will suffer.
On the other hand, there are sometimes events which happen that are beyond our control, and it's up to us to make it right. In those cases, there's no rule or mandate that says "you - sysadmin: go above and beyond the call of duty and be a hero!" I think it's more our mental alignment that says "It's my job to make sure that things work. In order to make things work, I've got to climb on top of the roof in the middle of a blizzard and restart the generator" (something my boss has done multiple times, and I'm sure some of you have as well). It's just the way it works. We think logically, if the job needs done, and it's our job to do it, then we need to do the job. The peripheral variables are unimportant.
I think the comic is hilarious, but like most Mission Impossible / Jack Bauer / Die Hard scenarios, it's a rare event. Don't go take ju-jitsu just in case someone cuts your network cables. Have a redundant infrastructure so that it doesn't matter if they get cut.