[Beowulf] Beowulf SysAdmin Job Description

Douglas Guptill douglas.guptill at dal.ca
Mon May 4 16:09:12 PDT 2009

Amen to that!

Too many Ph.D persons (in fields other than Computer Science) assume
that any sort of computer work is something they could do in their
spare time, if they just took the time.

These persons do not acknowledge that, since the 1960's, the art and
science of programming and sysadmin'ing of computers have grown into a
field that also warrants high level university degrees.  Even - gasp!
- a Ph.D.


On Mon, May 04, 2009 at 02:59:10PM -0700, Lux, James P wrote:
> > 
> > Without a doubt since it is usually easier to teach the IT to 
> > a Scientist then to teach the Science to an IT Geek.  
> If by IT you mean run of the mill sysadmin/code monkey/cable puller, perhaps.
> If by IT you mean doing quality development and management, no, this
> is not the case.
> Managing a staff and hardware, doing budgets and schedule, managing
> procurements, doing a good job of security, keeping up with
> regulatory requirements, etc. particularly if there are multiple
> users, is something that requires some amount of training and
> experience (probably the 10,000 hour proficiency thing).
> It is as unreasonable to teach a PhD scientist how to do a good job
> running a cluster in 1 year as it is unreasonable to teach a
> sysadmin with 10 years experience how to do PhD quality science in 1
> year. I have encountered many a skilled scientist, engineer, laywer,
> etc (professional in general) who had "just enough knowledge to be
> dangerous" as a sysadmin.  Of such are spectacular virus and
> security breach exploit stories made.
> The difference is more in the height of the first step before one
> can claim competence of some sort.  It is possible to do a (not
> great, but not deadly) job sysadmining a personal cluster with a few
> hours study and the right handbooks and online mailing lists.  But
> that level of sysadmin is like the chemistry I did as a kid with the
> "Golden Book of Chemistry".  Nobody with the Golden Book of
> Chemistry claims they are a chemist.  But folks with a few months
> experience on a toy cluster DO claim that they are a sysadmin.
> And, I might argue that some scientists/engineers are fundamentally
> unsuited to being a good system manager, just as there are smart
> cluster managers who aren't going to be suited to doing science.
> There are skills needed for each job, and a Venn diagram of the two
> would show a large intersection, but one is not a subset of the
> other.
> > However, they do both have their place in the universe.  In 
> > business the opportunity for the slave-labor of a 
> > Grad-Student just so infrequently exists.  Hence the ability 
> > to do what you describe below just doesn't exist there, nor 
> > is it really needed.
> In business, they're called "unpaid interns","Co-ops", or in the entertainment business "Production assistants (PA)".
> Jim
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