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System Admins Should Know How To Code

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the helps-to-have-a-beard-too dept.

Programming 298

snydeq writes "You don't need to be a programmer, but you'll solve harder problems faster if you can write your own code, writes Paul Venezia. 'The fact is, while we may know several programming languages to varying degrees, most IT ninjas aren't developers, per se. I've put in weeks and months of work on various large coding projects, but that's certainly not how I spend most of my time. Frankly, I don't think I could just write code day in and day out, but when I need to develop a tool to deal with a random problem, I dive right in. ... It's not a vocation, and it's not a clear focus of the job, but it's a substantial weapon when tackling many problems. I'm fairly certain that if all I did was write Perl, I'd go insane.'"

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Very true, for many reasons. (5, Insightful)

uCallHimDrJ0NES (2546640) | about a year ago | (#41735153)

People who've never coded tend to have many "magic boxes" in their thinking about systems. I find it hard to fully trust an administrator who can't at least parse through other people's code.

Re:Very true, for many reasons. (4, Informative)

bolthole (122186) | about a year ago | (#41735197)

Depends what they're administering.
There are plenty of systems that are more closed, and the sysadmin should be spending their time living in the pre-provided frameworks, rather than coding their own.

Many times, it's a matter of learning what is already available for the system, rather than coding your own, lesser quality replacement.

Re:Very true, for many reasons. (4, Insightful)

pinfall (2430412) | about a year ago | (#41735239)

I don't code a lick after 15 years of sysadmin. I do solve incredibly interesting problems with hardware and that ability alone provides a serious interface to all those 'needs software' perspectives. All of my best friends are coders, we just solve problems differently.

Re:Very true, for many reasons. (4, Interesting)

Mr2cents (323101) | about 2 years ago | (#41735461)

You don't or you can't? Because even when I'm not coding, just in day-to-day computer use, I often write scripts to batch-process or automate various things. I have found this highly beneficial. I don't want to break you down, I just want to know your reasoning. Personally, I can highly recommend learning scripting, be it bash/awk/php (yes, I wrote php scripts)/powershell/whatever, I'm sure you'll benefit from it.

Re:Very true, for many reasons. (5, Insightful)

fsck1nhippies (2642761) | about 2 years ago | (#41735567)

2Cents, you are absolutely right. Even in windows systems, a basic understanding of what can be done with code can stop 5 people from running around to a couple hundred machines each.

Should the sysadmin be a programmer? Not in the conventional sense, but they should be able to programmatically attack the problems placed before them before they just brute force their way through them.

Re:Very true, for many reasons. (5, Interesting)

scubamage (727538) | about 2 years ago | (#41735779)

Exactly - it comes down to a matter of cost very often. If you can spend a half hour throwing together a script to make a configuration change across, say, 2000 devices (or in our case, several million), it is far cheaper than trying to find a vendor solution, or having folks go out and do the work themselves. The vendor will often have maintenance fees and high initial costs for a tool that "sort of" does what you want. You can have people go out and pound pavement, but if you have 2000 devices and send out 50 people, and it takes each person 20 minutes to do the work on the device plus 30 minutes trave time, times 17$ an hour... well, that adds up fast too. Not to mention the opportunity cost and backlog of tickets that that would generate.

Re:Very true, for many reasons. (5, Insightful)

fsck1nhippies (2642761) | about 2 years ago | (#41735835)

I see a lot of admins in very large companies throw labor at a problem as their first course of action. It is typically a face palm moment for me as I often see the problems as fixable in minutes. I believe that all sysadmins should be able to program, but think that making a programmer a sysadmin is generally a bad idea.

Re:Very true, for many reasons. (4, Insightful)

karnal (22275) | about 2 years ago | (#41735719)

I have coded in the past using Perl to give us some reporting ability from some non network-connected (think no email/notification ability) phone switches. They had relay outputs that would trigger on an alarm; so we used a box to generate a trap that would fire up my perl script to send out emails to whomever was in the config. I don't know a lot - I mostly use bits and pieces of code found around the web and customized to purpose. I initially thought I wanted to code for a living, but found in my first job that politics trump the technical, and boy were the politics thick. I do more security/administration nowadays, but still draw on the basic coding ability to create automated notifications for anything non-standardized. Really what I'm trying to say here is sometimes the basic experience of coding as well as a need to fulfill a solution that doesn't have a canned solution readily available can push you to do some interesting things.

Re:Very true, for many reasons. (2)

karnal (22275) | about 2 years ago | (#41735731)

And - sorry about the lack of line breaks there.

Re:Very true, for many reasons. (1)

scubamage (727538) | about 2 years ago | (#41735735)

I think you have another step in your development as a sysadmin my friend. You sound like you're still in a bit of the I have a hammer, so these problems must be nails. Sometimes a mix of some carefully crafted scripts as well as hardware is the most elegant solution (especially when cost becomes an issue).

Re:Very true, for many reasons. (1)

uCallHimDrJ0NES (2546640) | about 2 years ago | (#41735477)

I agree with what you're saying, but you're missing my point about magic boxes. There are sometimes feasibility matters that are obvious to coder admins that are not obvious to non-coder admins. How often is this important? Rarely. When admins are also designers, it becomes more important. It depends on what you expect of your person with the title "admin".

Re:Very true, for many reasons. (5, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | about a year ago | (#41735327)

The problem is the way corps shit all over IT they'll just go "Hey, one more job we can dump on them without raising their pay!" and that will be that.

Lets face it folks, we are gonna end up with critical shortages of IT and infrastructure workers because between the offshoring, the H1-Bs, and the PHBs treating IT as this money pit that doesn't give them any profits? IT has been shat upon for the good part of the last decade.

I know myself and most of the old guard guys I knew ended up getting out of corporate IT for just this reason, piling more and more work upon us while expecting everything to be done with less help and a shrinking budget...now you want to add coding to the requirements? You gonna add a pay raise and pay for the classes? Yeah, thought not.

Re:Very true, for many reasons. (4, Insightful)

countach74 (2484150) | about a year ago | (#41735365)

I think you missed the point. The coding helps save you time in the long run. Not the other way around.

I agree, IT people aren't developers for a reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41735491)

I think you missed the point. The coding helps save you time in the long run. Not the other way around.

The time you save doesn't help coding in the long run.

Sounds about right to me.

Re:Very true, for many reasons. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41735685)

I think scripting can help with automated tasks but other than that any benefit coding knowledge has is more from the logic that comes along with. In other words a good grasp of logic makes for a good coder and for a good sysadmin. Learning coding is just an indirect way to learn logic. For a car analogy, a mechanical engineer does not necessarily make a good mechanic and a mechanic does not necessarily need to know engineering.

Re:Very true, for many reasons. (0)

jhoegl (638955) | about 2 years ago | (#41735665)

You should ask Janitors how they feel about being "shat on".
Because like IT, janitors are a money pit too. Look at large buildings where management outsources janitorial care. Guess where IT is going.

Re:Very true, for many reasons. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41735337)

and as a sysadmin, I don't trust any developper.

Romney to win tonight, win the election (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41735157)

Today will be the day that America became great again, with a resounding Mitt Romney victory and the working people of the USA will stop the leeches and drag on productive people that is the uneducated underclass. Viva la Mitt!

Re:Romney to win tonight, win the election (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41735367)

You're a f**king moron....

No, really you are.

Re:Romney to win tonight, win the election (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41735693)

I have to agree with the fucking moron comment above. Mitt is a joke. The only thing he knows how to do is aggrandize himself. He's never had to actually work a day in his life and has no clue what an average person goes through.

Coders should know how to admin (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41735163)

...and support for that matter.

Corollary: All IT People Should Have to Do It All (5, Insightful)

Motard (1553251) | about a year ago | (#41735373)

I've worked in companies ranging from 5 people to 40,000 (and plenty in between). In the smaller shops I've had to do administration, development, desktop, and customer support. In the larger 'enterprise' shops, I'm constantly amused by the myriad breakdowns in communications caused by folks being incapable of putting themselves in the shoes of their coworkers.

Being a developer made me a better system administrator. Being an admin made me a better developer. Same with operations, support, et. al.

Re:Corollary: All IT People Should Have to Do It A (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41735423)

well said. While I try my best to prevent it I often see many communications issues that cause problems in large shops. Developers may not understand the infrastructure and admins have no idea how to work with Dev for troubleshooting

Re:Coders should know how to admin (3, Informative)

scubamage (727538) | about 2 years ago | (#41735655)

Agreed. Several companies I have worked for have had coders who couldn't care less about the fineries of system administration. All they care about is having a nice development environment and a working svn/git where they can store their code. They couldn't care less how the infrastructure behind it works.

It's the mindset that matters (4, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | about 2 years ago | (#41735689)

A lot of the time you don't want developers administrating other people's gear since you get shit like unnecessary reboots of servers during peak working hours leaving 300 people with nothing to do apart from read newspapers (one memorable example). It's not skills that separate a good developers from a good sysadmin but instead a consideration of inter-related systems and caring about consequences of actions.

Sure thing (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41735177)

Next you'll tell me my developers should know how to admin a server and do so at a drop of a hat.

Try writing a reporting app in visual basic (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41735181)

It will compile anything!
Drink everytime you accidentally put a semi-colon on the end of a line!

Re:Try writing a reporting app in visual basic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41735399)

Dude. Drink every time you accidentally put a semi-colon on the end of a line in VB?! WTF?! ARE YOU MAD?! I will be fucking wasted by noon. Just add in drink every time that I need to reference a library that doesn't link well with VB (specifically VB6--sqlite is an amazing example), and other retarded situations, and you've got me wasted by 10am latest. Terrible idea... except. Wait. I retract everything I just said. Coding in VB makes me want to get wasted. Brilliant idea!

OO (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41735203)

I'm sure many go insane dealing with only procedural languages day in and day out.
It's probably a lot healthier to stick with proper OO languages.
Then again, you have to have a little crazy in you to be a code monkey.

Re:OO (1)

OneAhead (1495535) | about 2 years ago | (#41735447)

It's probably a lot healthier to stick with proper OO languages.

That statement makes you not crazy enough to be a code monkey.

Re:OO (2)

scubamage (727538) | about 2 years ago | (#41735797)

Psh, real men use goto statements.

Sure (4, Insightful)

xaoslaad (590527) | about a year ago | (#41735213)

And if you're going to say I'm a programmer then pay me like one. I don't think most sysadmins get paid as much as programmers, and I don't think most companies want to pay sysadmins as much as developers.

Also, developers trying to write tools for sysadmins usually suck at it, unless they've been a sysadmin at some time in the past. I have used a few products lately which are trying to solve all our sysadmin problems, and the one that doesn't suck comes from a dev who is a former sysadmin. And when I talk to him and make suggestions he sees exactly where I'm coming from.

Developers just want to solve use cases that fit neat little scenarios without any corner cases, and it shows when their tool is so inflexible as to be useless.

Re:Sure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41735253)

sounds pretty damn whiny. maybe if you were willing to code you could show them all a thing or two.

Re:Sure (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41735745)

Actually I do. I have written a feature or two. Surely not as cleanly as the full time developers could, but sufficiently to make it work so that they can take it, clean it up, and pull it in. I am also not afraid to look at source code, a luxury I can take because we use primarily open source, and I have pin-pointed faulty code more than once. I also help out some of our developers packaging their software even though it is also not my job, so they can spend more time doing what they do best, because ultimately I believe it will benefit us both. None of that changes the fact that I am not a competent developer.

I do however believe firmly that I am competent and dedicated sysadmin. That's more than a lot of people in this industry can say. But now the insinuation is that I should have two valuable skill sets, and one I don't enjoy doing at length even. Ok then, give me time on the job to learn, pay for the courses so I can relearn to code competently, and then triple my salary. I aced all my CS classes in college, whether in Java, C, or Assembly. One thing all those hours and hours and hours coding made me realize is that I didn't want to do that shit for a living. I still don't. I do what I like doing now.

Now don't you feel silly for assuming what I do and don't do along with what I did and do know?

Flipper (0)

puddingebola (2036796) | about a year ago | (#41735219)

What's that Flipper? Someone's in trouble on the other side of the bay?

Not only admins (5, Informative)

Mr2cents (323101) | about a year ago | (#41735223)

In general, everybody dealing with computers can benefit from a bit of programming knowledge, not only admins. The rule of thumb is: if you're doing a repetitive, braindead job, you're doing it wrong. Computers are built to do exactly that. A small script can automate a lot of work for you, if you have that skill it can help you tremendously.

Re:Not only admins (4, Interesting)

Mr2cents (323101) | about a year ago | (#41735309)

PS: YOu don't really need to know how to program, if you can just identify tasks that are braindead and repetitive, that's already a plus. Then you can go and talk to someone who does know how to program, explain the problem, and this person might come up with a simple solution for you. It all boils down to this [imgur.com] .
Unfortunately, many people are not trained to identify automatable jobs.

Re:Not only admins (1)

drosboro (1046516) | about 2 years ago | (#41735435)

It all boils down to this [imgur.com] .

That's a great graph. Took me a minute to realize that it was very strange to me to have time on the y axis, since it so rarely appears there - but once I got used to tilting my head at 90 degrees, it worked.. :)

Re:Not only admins (3, Funny)

Mr2cents (323101) | about 2 years ago | (#41735505)

You're right. But you could always write a script to flip the axes, might come in handy if you encounter similar graphs ;-).

Re:Not only admins (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41735639)

PS: YOu don't really need to know how to program, if you can just identify tasks that are braindead and repetitive, that's already a plus. Then you can go and talk to someone who does know how to program, explain the problem, and this person might come up with a simple solution for you. It all boils down to this [imgur.com] .
Unfortunately, many people are not trained to identify automatable jobs.

This presumes that people who know how to program are willing to do things for you that they might reasonably expect you to do for yourself.

Re:Not only admins (2, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | about 2 years ago | (#41735897)

Not trained? What? Most people I know realize the tasks they do could be automated. However, they do everything in their power to ensure they aren't because they believe it keeps their relatively mindless and easy job "safe". This mindset is prevalent in the public sector and the unionized public sector especially.

I was able to come in and completely revamp a position I was hired to do to expand it to encompass at least 50x more work with a little Access/VBA and some learned-on-the-job DW knowledge.

They are still running the same exact reports I wrote when I left 5 years ago and haven't added a single one to the mix. Someone has now taken over my position and enters text in the fields the scripts prompt for and passes out the paperwork it automatically prints. It's a sad day for our tax dollars.

Re:Not only admins (1)

bbelt16ag (744938) | about 2 years ago | (#41735479)

then i would have no work to do at all..

Re:Not only admins (1)

Mr2cents (323101) | about 2 years ago | (#41735541)

Uhm, did I tell you to inform your boss? You can get all your work done (without errors once you perfected the script), AND read slashdot full-time. Win-win.

Re:Not only admins (1)

Kjella (173770) | about 2 years ago | (#41735595)

In general, everybody dealing with computers can benefit from a bit of programming knowledge, not only admins. The rule of thumb is: if you're doing a repetitive, braindead job, you're doing it wrong. Computers are built to do exactly that. A small script can automate a lot of work for you, if you have that skill it can help you tremendously.

Let me guess, you're a developer? Yes, yes and it'd be great if developers understand a little about sysadmin so they knew how their software would be run... oh and understand the business a little better... oh and understand support and the issues their having.... oh and understand the sales and marketing people who little who has to try to sell this stuff... oh and understand the economists so we actually do things profitable too... and, yeah okay there's a zillion things that would be somewhat useful. I don't mean everybody should put on blinders and just stare at their own little piece of the big picture, but most people have plenty improvement potential in their own job rather than go off to learn the basics of an entirely different job. You're probably comparing the speed it'd take you to whip up a script rather than solve it the manual way, not the time it'd take them.

I'm barely qualified to change windshield wipers, tires, light bulbs and at a stretch possibly oil on a car. An auto mechanic would probably think I'm a total n00b and I'm sure to him many things looks super easy and he can't understand why people don't bother learning the basics of auto maintenance and repair - though I'm sure he doesn't mind the business. Well life's too short to learn all those things I don't have any particular need or interest in learning and so is work life too. I have no problem with people that choose to be specialists, sure you need some "glue" people to make them talk to each other but the value of real experts who know their area inside and out is immeasurable. If it's not a big deal that needs automation they'll just do it, if it is a big deal they'll get on the phone or email or talk to their boss and find someone who can automate it.

Besides I thought most developers hated most wannabe developers that pop out some kind of abomination in VBA or something similar and when it outgrows their limited skills the whole pile is dropped on somebody on the IT side. Code hacks aren't exactly know to build things that are reliable, maintainable or even sane. I certainly wouldn't want to give them the impression that it's so easy anybody could do it as a side gig to their normal job, that's a disaster waiting to happen. Yes yes, we get it you're doing something very important in automating all the crazy that'd otherwise be a huge time sink. But those other people are probably also doing something fairly essential to the business or else they wouldn't be there. I'm sure they all wish you'd understand some of their job, but you'd feel spread pretty thin then wouldn't you?

Re:Not only admins (3, Interesting)

scubamage (727538) | about 2 years ago | (#41735691)

I'm a systems engineer for a fortune 500, and I spend a significant amount of time developing. Now, am I making fancy OOP code using an IDE? Nope, not really. I am however making python/perl/awk/expect/tcl/shell scripts with a heck of a lot of frequency. I don't think I could do my job effectively if I didn't.

Re:Not only admins (1)

Mr2cents (323101) | about 2 years ago | (#41735911)

Personally I don't hate "amateur" programmers coming up with a solution that makes my hair stand up right. I applaud it. If it saves them time, they'll use it. If not, I hope they recycle the bits (especially the 1's, they pollute a lot more than 0's). But seriously, you bring up some important points:

1) Is the effort spent worth the time gained? That's something you should *always* ask yourself. Even for seasoned programmers this is not always a clear-cut case. Personally I found this technique quite useful: consider the worst case. If in this case you lose some time, is it a lot? No? Then try to automate (depending on your concrete workload and other factors of course - this is an exercise you'll have to make yourself).
Rationale: You might lose a bit of time, but if you do this consistently, on average you break even or gain time. But more importantly: you'll gain experience in automation tasks and software tools. This will help you make better judgments later on.

2) Every line of code written will have to be maintained. This is a big issue in some cases. Never assume you will live forever, nor work forever for that company. If the tools you create are mission-critical to the company, it should be discussed with higher management. At the last place I worked, an employee created a full system for automating hardware production in Delphi. When he left, there was nobody to maintain it. However, since it was so central to the company (it really increased efficiency), they hired another Delphi programmer to take it over. Not everything is that complicated however. You can use personal scripts that won't be missed but still save you some time. Worst case: your successor will do it all manually again until he gets annoyed and writes his own scripts, or he discovers yours in a backup.

I must say I find your attitude toward learning a bit depressing, though, personally I grab every opportunity to learn something new. Especially if it has direct implications on my job performance, but not even limited to that.

PS: I love your sig :-).

Re:Not only admins (1)

blade8086 (183911) | about 2 years ago | (#41735907)

Or - just look at it this way:

The only way to use a *computer* is to program a computer - otherwise, you're just using *software*.

Duh (1)

countach74 (2484150) | about a year ago | (#41735227)

Isn't this all rather self evident?

Two different worlds (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41735233)

In a utopia, sure a sysadmin should know how to code. But the sysadmin's job is to support the code and OS, not figure out what is wrong with the code when things break.

Should a developer need to know the ins and outs of the Data Center? Should they know Unix/Linux/Windows/App Servers and everything else that is running?

Re:Two different worlds (2)

countach74 (2484150) | about a year ago | (#41735277)

But the sysadmin's job is to support the code and OS, not figure out what is wrong with the code when things break.

Strawman's argument. The article clearly is talking about using programming/scripts to facilitate the system administration jobs, which is a no brainer. It does not say to be a developer and hack in some change to a large app to fix an issue. Or perhaps I missed that part?

Re:Two different worlds (1)

PlusFiveTroll (754249) | about 2 years ago | (#41735683)

Yes, it is the Sysadmin's job to figure out the code is broke, knowing how to program can tell you when there is a 'program' problem verses a hardware or network problem. You can then give better test cases and problem reports to the developers which allow the problem to be fixed faster.

Really this isn't any different then any other job out there. Lets say your a truck driver and your truck isn't working right. If you know very little about the internal workings of engines you'd tell the machine shop that 'there is a problem' or 'it's not running right'. If you had a good idea of the operation and components of the engine and drivetrain it is very likely you could give a better bug report 'it's not shifting at 4k rpm, possibly due to loss of vacuum'. Little details like that can save hours of 'fucking with it' to figure out what the issue is.

Really this article is kind of a 'duh', how surprising is it that having more knowledge of how a system works makes you better at working on that system.

Automating tasks (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about a year ago | (#41735245)

That usually implies a bit of programming at the very least. Maybe a sysadmin no need to be a large projects developer, but the small tools that could make his life easier would make a big difference.

Another skill we will only get underpaid for (2, Funny)

NetNinja (469346) | about a year ago | (#41735249)

The ammount of skills Network admins should know and still get paid a 10th of what we are worth is ridiculous.

I should be making close to 300k a year, Do you think any company would pay that?

So now I need to add codder to the resume which will effectively fall on my shoulders to maintain code? Bad idea.

I guess I should be happy and count my lucky stars that I have a job?

The one thing I have noticed in companies that Sales weasels get paid a lot more money than I and the responsibility lies on the network admin to keep it all running.

Re:Another skill we will only get underpaid for (1)

countach74 (2484150) | about a year ago | (#41735299)

The one thing I have noticed in companies that Sales weasels get paid a lot more money than I and the responsibility lies on the network admin to keep it all running.

Yes. It's a backwards society. Black is white. 2+2=5.

Re:Another skill we will only get underpaid for (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41735445)

5? I thought 2+2=3 ... They increased it without paying me more? Bastards!

Re:Another skill we will only get underpaid for (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41735921)

Sorry, I undercut your pricing for modifying universal constants like numeric values. The company decided you just weren't worth the prices you charged.

Re:Another skill we will only get underpaid for (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41735815)

Yes. It's a backwards society. Black is white. 2+2=5.

It does, for very large values of 2.

Re:Another skill we will only get underpaid for (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41735395)

The ammount of skills Network admins should know and still get paid a 10th of what we are worth is ridiculous.

I should be making close to 300k a year, Do you think any company would pay that?

So now I need to add codder to the resume which will effectively fall on my shoulders to maintain code? Bad idea.

$300,000? Seriously? And you don't even know how to spell amount or coder... ammount? codder?

The one thing I have noticed in companies that Sales weasels get paid a lot more money than I and the responsibility lies on the network admin to keep it all running.

How many sales did you make last quarter? Zero again.

Yes everyone need to be coding (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41735251)

It sure will help with the process if everyone working on a project new the basic of coding. It will help the system run better. Free Video showing you the easy way to make $1000 dollars within the next 30days. http://geteasymoneytoday.com/free

Perl (4, Funny)

slapout (93640) | about a year ago | (#41735257)

So, does Perl drive you crazy or do you have to be crazy to program in Perl?

Re:Perl (1)

guygo (894298) | about a year ago | (#41735401)

Yes

Re:Perl (2)

toygeek (473120) | about 2 years ago | (#41735415)

Yes.

Re:Perl (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 2 years ago | (#41735615)

So, does Perl drive you crazy or do you have to be crazy to program in Perl?

Some people just can't get their head around Perl. That's OK, there's always python. We'll treat you with compassion.

Re:Perl (1)

scubamage (727538) | about 2 years ago | (#41735717)

Honestly I never thought perl was that bad, but I actually have a pretty good grasp on regular expressions and otherwise I like the shortcuts that perl includes. It lacks the clarity of, say, a nice and well assembled shell script, but if you're making something that tips the balance between trying to make a shell script do something it's not really meant for and just using a normal language, perl is a great choice. Granted you can end up with some cryptic to look at stuff, but that's what documentation is for.

Re:Perl (2)

grouchomarxist (127479) | about 2 years ago | (#41735939)

Having to document code is a code smell. Documentation is something that can easily fall out of sync with the source. It is best to program in a fashion that doesn't require documentation, if possible.

Re:Perl (2)

scubamage (727538) | about 2 years ago | (#41736015)

I disagree - if documentation is falling out of sync with the code, then whoever is writing the code isn't doing their job properly.

Re:Perl (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41735629)

Yes

Is this what any programmer does? (4, Insightful)

PeanutButterBreath (1224570) | about a year ago | (#41735259)

I'm fairly certain that if all I did was write Perl, I'd go insane.

As a programmer, to me this is like someone equating author and typist. Code is just a medium. Figuring out what to do with it, and how, is the fun part.

Unfortunately (2)

sackofdonuts (2717491) | about a year ago | (#41735265)

Many IT professionals called systems administrators have no idea how to code. They basically perform the strict description of systems administration activities. But those who can code tend to be the better sys. admins. and usually end up directing those who do not know how to code. Coding is one of many tools a proficient sys. admin. has. Another is problem solving skills. Believe it or not there are systems administrators out there that can actually solve a problem without calling the vendor.

Re:Unfortunately (1)

scubamage (727538) | about 2 years ago | (#41735885)

It's because coding involves logically breaking down complex problems into simple steps. Now, when you have an entry level sysadmin (someone with 1-5 - sometimes less - years of experience) they basically do simple tasks. Reset a password, clean up an os, do installs, fix issues, etc - these are honestly trained monkey tasks that any geek squad kid can do. I know, I was one of them (before geeksquad, but the point stands). As they get further down their career paths they SHOULD start to undergo two changes. First they should be more proactive/less reactionary, and second, they should learn to plan before executing. Breaking down complex problems into functional components is an essential part of that design part. If you don't teach yourself to break things down into simple steps and specialized software/hardware, you're hamstringing yourself and your career.

An Assortment of Tools is Better Than Just One (1)

Gim Tom (716904) | about a year ago | (#41735273)

I was never a developer as it is now called, but I wrote code in about half a dozen or more languages to solve a problem that needed to be solved. I worked with System Administrators and Engineers that had never written a line of code in any language and to me it seemed that they were working blind and with one hand tied behind their back

Re:An Assortment of Tools is Better Than Just One (1)

shinehead (603005) | about a year ago | (#41735323)

Yep, Sysadmins need to be able to code. And developers need to lose their God complex and realize they can't sysadmin worth a damn. And if they can they aren't doing their job correctly.

Re:An Assortment of Tools is Better Than Just One (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41735473)

Wait. What? Someone on slashdot acknowledging that I suck at sysadmin and shouldn't be doing it? What? Not even just on slashdot--in the world in general. ... *jaw drops*

It's not all about the code (1, Interesting)

boundary (1226600) | about a year ago | (#41735301)

As an IT manager, I don't want my sysadmins to code. I want my coders to code. I want my testers to test. And I want my sysadmins to...ermmm...admin the sys. Mixing roles & responsibilities can be really dangerous, especially when there's a strict development and deployment lifecycle in place (and if there isn't you're living in uncontrolled chaos), including change management and release management, that must be gone through properly. Uncontrolled changes, with sysadmins using production systems like they're test environments, is a bad idea and will end in tears.

Re:It's not all about the code (4, Insightful)

aXis100 (690904) | about 2 years ago | (#41735697)

Wow..... just wow. As an IT Manager you have failed to grasp the concept of this article, and that is a worry.

They are not talking about sysadmins writing production code - they are talking about using one of a variety of scripting languages to solve sysadmin problems - eg repetitive tasks like backups, deployment scripts etc, maybe even some html status monitoring screens or a cactus plugin.

Re:It's not all about the code (1)

PlusFiveTroll (754249) | about 2 years ago | (#41735763)

Err, Jesus man do you work for the telephone company? I swear to god each one of them has a little tiny job they know how to do and all other information is kept from them. Paperwork has to be filed for them to talk to any other person.

Anyway, this article isn't about any of this shit you just stated. It's just stating that sysadmins that know how to code notice problems faster and give better bug reports.. He doesn't even have to 'solve' them, he can pass that information on to the people that do.

Re:It's not all about the code (1)

scubamage (727538) | about 2 years ago | (#41735937)

So, since you're responsible for the finances of your team, would you prefer to pay your sysadmin for 300 hours of work to walk to 600 workstations and manually make some changes, or pay him for 5 hours to write and test a shell/powershell script allowing him to go back to work?

Sounds like a plan! (4, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#41735339)

You doubling my salary for that extra work? I'm tired of the constant scope creep people keep shoveling in without an increase in compensation.

Re:Sounds like a plan! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41735861)

How bout it'll make you a less useless sysadmin and you'll finally make more than that silly $80k you make.

Re:Sounds like a plan! (2)

PeanutButterBreath (1224570) | about 2 years ago | (#41735891)

Don't you see? Knowing how to code will make you more efficient. So, if anything, the amount of, er, whatever it is that you people do, can be increased!

Yes, early adopters will be able to demand a higher salary for any additional skills that they bring to the table. That is, until we can update our job requirements to include these skills (5 years minimum).

Re:Sounds like a plan! (1)

arielCo (995647) | about 2 years ago | (#41735955)

There are "app" languages like Java/Ruby/PHP that will get you in that situation, and there are languages mostly regarded as tools for automation (Perl/$SHELL/Tcl?). So, there are two ways around it:
* stick to scripting (it'll make your everyday life easier) and refrain from learning these "dangerous" languages, or
* learn them (you'll gain additional insight on common programming pitfalls, making you a faster troubleshooter) and DON'T TELL YOUR BOSS.

Sure so long as coders l2sysadmin (2)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about a year ago | (#41735355)

Then maybe I wouldn't spend an inordinate amount of time fighting with programs that can't understand how to run as a deprivileged user, that can't properly set up their own environment variables and so on.

So I'll promise to learn to program if they'll learn to sysadmin. Since I already know how to program then they'd better get on it.

Re:Sure so long as coders l2sysadmin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41735417)

Yeah, this.

Re:Sure so long as coders l2sysadmin (1)

PeanutButterBreath (1224570) | about 2 years ago | (#41735903)

Then maybe I wouldn't spend an inordinate amount of time fighting with programs that can't understand how to run as a deprivileged user, that can't properly set up their own environment variables and so on.

We'll get right on that when everyone learns how to accurately analyse and communicate their requirements.

Depends on the Job Definition (4, Informative)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about a year ago | (#41735393)

Sometimes I play 'sysadmin'. It winds up as the "this doesn't work, make it work" role. Today it was reading the RFC's to figure out how DSN's are supposed to be returned, writing the java.mailx code to make the developers' app do that, and explaning how SMTP works. Other times it's working through a SQL query planner, finding why packets are headed in the wrong direction, re-doing an architecture, etc. It's not possible to do the job well without good CS training, a solid background in coding, a solid background in networking, and just plain blood, sweat, and tears.

Then again, you could study for a test exam in 21 days and call yourself a sysadmin too. It's always the definitions.

Ah, age. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41735405)

At one point, we *had* to code. Tools didn't exist until we made them. Or at least tools that did what *we* wanted didn't exist until we made them.

I blame Windows weenies for the loss of this skill. They cannot function without pre-packaged clicky things. Nitwits.

Re:Ah, age. (1)

mdhoover (856288) | about 2 years ago | (#41735705)

Oh for some mod points...

If all I did was write Perl (2)

Seumas (6865) | about 2 years ago | (#41735431)

I'm fairly certain that if all I did was write Perl, I'd go insane

And that's the point when you officially become a perl hacker.

ANYBODY Would Go Insane... (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 2 years ago | (#41735457)

... if all they did was write Perl.

Where do you think Slashdot came from?

Coders Should Know How To Sysadmin (2)

MisterP (156738) | about 2 years ago | (#41735573)

I don't think anyone could argue that having skills in both areas isn't a good thing. I've been a sysadmin for 20 years and i've had to do basic development over the years (apache modules, ldap-ifying applications, etc). When it comes to troubleshooting complex problems as a sysadmin and the whole team is whiteboarding, you can tell pretty quickly who understands how systems work below the user interface. This is often only learned through writing code.

The opposite is true for coders too. With a few execeptions, the most competent developers I've worked with have had sysadmin duties at some point in their career. Not that long ago, I had to sit down with a Sr. (Java) developer and explain load balancers and TCP session state.

Perl is beautiful (1)

Frank T. Lofaro Jr. (142215) | about 2 years ago | (#41735677)

I'm fairly certain that if all I did was write Perl, I'd go insane.'"

but Perl is a beautiful language!

Re:Perl is beautiful (1)

grouchomarxist (127479) | about 2 years ago | (#41735975)

>Perl is a beautiful language!

Yes, for those with twisted minds.

Maybe (2)

asmkm22 (1902712) | about 2 years ago | (#41735703)

I don't know about full-blown compiled coding or anything, but sysadmins definitely should have a grasp of a scripting language relevant to their environment (such as vbscript for windows). There are too many times you get requests for stuff that inexplicably have no official support for, such setting up a default Outlook signature for all users that pulls information from their login profile. The sysadmin who can say "give me 30 minutes minutes and I'll have it ready for testing" will look a lot better than the sysadmin who says "we could buy an $800 program that will allow us to do that, but we'll still have to test it out."

This just in... (2)

epp_b (944299) | about 2 years ago | (#41735733)

Experience in one field can be an asset in another due to inherent interdependent qualities! Wow!

But as many others here have pointed out, the last thing businesses need is another job to dump on the IT department while continuing to tighten their budget (because, hey, computers are just computers, if you know about them, you know everything about them, right?)

Re:This just in... (1)

blade8086 (183911) | about 2 years ago | (#41735933)

More like:

Knowing how to do your actual job makes you better at doing your actual job!

or alternatively:

Pretending to be something that you are not is not the same as actually being that person!

And they should be paid more than programmers... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41735883)

Welding all this developed-in-silos software together so it actually works should have some compensations.

And the oposite. (1)

stanlyb (1839382) | about 2 years ago | (#41735915)

Developers should know how to do the admin job.

I disagree.. (2)

xushi (740195) | about 2 years ago | (#41735925)

However I do believe they should know how to script..

Just my HO. Coding can be a bit too excessive for a sysadmin - otherwise he'd shift more towards programming. Scripting can be more than enough with bash/perl/php/python.

Wait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41735949)

GET OUT OF MY HEAD!

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