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Systems Administration Koans [2008]

Some koans...


A sysadmin asked the Master,

"What's the best way to install a new system?"

The Master answered,

"Turn it on."

The sysadmin was enlightened.


A sysadmin asked the Master,

"What's the root password to this server?"

The Master asked,

"Do you have access to the console?"

The sysadmin replied,


The Master replied,

"The root password is whatever you want it to be."

The sysadmin was enlightened.


An sysadmin seeks approval from the Master:

"Master, I have designed and implemented a system with no single points of failure!"

The Master answered, "Have you documented it?"

"Not yet - I wanted to get it done first."

The Master asked, "Give me the name of a team member that can build another one without seeing you or contacting you."

"Well, I can't, yet - I just built it."

The Master answered, "Your system has at least one single point of failure."

The sysadmin was enlightened.


The Master called the two lead operational sysadmins into the office, asking,

"What is your daily routine?"

The first admin answered,

"First I check to see if my security patches went out, then I push out patches that failed to push the first time, then I ping all the systems to make sure they are up, then I go through the logs for each of my machines to check for issues, then I see if systems engineering has any updates, then I push those, as well; then - "

The Master cut the first admin short, asking the second, "What about you?"

"I have nothing to do," said the second.

The first admin was reprimanded, the second, given a raise.


The Master asked a junior administrator, "Tell me how your installation system works."

The junior administrator replied,

"First I boot from the network into the automated installation, then the automated post-installation, I wrote, runs, then any post-installation package updates run, then I configure the machine to get updates from my automatic update system. Then I deploy the machine."

The Master replied, "Why waste time on post-installation?"

The junior admin was enlightened.


The Master asked two junior admins how their weekend upgrades went.

The first related that he sent out his maintenance notice on time, scheduled downtime, and successfully completed every item on his process checklist within his downtime window. His clients were able to restart their applications within the downtime window with no issues. His successfully restored his services before the downtime window ended and sent his completion notice.

The second related that she had sent out her maintenance notice on time, completed every item on her process checklist within her window, and sent her completion notice.

The Masters asked, "You clients said they were not asked to restart their applications and emailed me asking if you actually did your upgrade. What happened?"

The second junior said, "I designed my process so that my services were never interrupted."

The first admin was reprimanded. The second, rewarded.


A junior admin once inquired of the Master.

"Master, what is the One True Text Editor for finding the One True Path?"

The Master admonished him.

"Your desire to find the One True Path will keep you from finding the One True Path. Go complete your work."

The junior admin was enlightened.


A Manager once said to the Master,

"I get 100s of resumes a week from people looking for jobs. You are all replaceable."

The Master replied,

"True. Given unlimited time and money, you can replace any employee."


(c) Adam Keck 2008. All rights reserved. (a0f29b982)

The above post is not licensed in any way.


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