Taming Information Technology: Lessons from Studies of System Administrators

Paperback | August 10, 2012

byEser Kandogan, Paul Maglio, Eben Haber

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Information technology is at the center of modern life. It supports most day-to-day activities: talking on the phone, getting money from an ATM, or working in the office. Whether for work, commerce, or fun, we interact with computers, networks, and databases - all sorts of informationtechnology. How does it work? Certainly, technological advances helped create this world. But what keeps it running? The answer is people. These people - computer system administrators - are the unsung heroes of the modern age. When we notice them, it is only because something went wrong. Smallfailures can become big problems, and big failures can make news headlines and cost lots of money. But most of the time, things go right, and system administrators are invisible. They work out of sight, down in the data-center, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. But how do they keepsystems running? And more importantly, how can we help make them better at their jobs? To answer these questions, the authors of Taming Information Technology set out to study system administrators - sysadmins, for short. They observed sysadmins in their natural environments, their offices, at the data center, or wherever they worked. The authors took notes, recorded video,interviewed, and, ultimately, put all these pieces together to try to understand what sysadmins do. This book, ten years in the making, is the result. It tells the story of system administration through the narratives of real system administrators. It documents dynamic systems of people andmachines, of specialists working together to tame hugely complex information technology infrastructures, developing and adapting their own tools and practices over time to create productive work environments. The authors hope Taming Information Technology will lead the way to a future in which theimportant work of these IT workers is better appreciated, better understood, and better supported.

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Information technology is at the center of modern life. It supports most day-to-day activities: talking on the phone, getting money from an ATM, or working in the office. Whether for work, commerce, or fun, we interact with computers, networks, and databases - all sorts of informationtechnology. How does it work? Certainly, technolo...

Eser Kandogan is a research staff member at IBM Research - Almaden and manages a group conducting research on visual interfaces to data. He served as the general chair and program chair for ACM CHIMIT symposium and was a member of the program committee for several conferences including ACM CHI, USENIX LISA, and IEEE Policy. He holds a ...
Format:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.68 inPublished:August 10, 2012Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195374126

ISBN - 13:9780195374124

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsPrologue: Why we wrote this book1. Motivations and MethodsTrendsBusinessLaborAutomationOur studiesQuestionsMethodsDescriptionsAnalysisRoadmapSummary2. People and CollaborationThe Story of George, Web AdministratorComplex Technical EnvironmentMysterious ErrorsRemote TroubleshootingObstacles to CollaborationDebugging GeorgeSystem Administration as Collaboration3. Technologies and ComplexityThe Story of Dot, Web AdministratorCoordinating InformationGrounding System StateManual InteractionsSolving the Puzzle of ComplexityThe Story of the Crit SitTransient ProblemSummarizing System StateMaking Sense of ChaosComplex InteractionsGrounding in a Complex Environment4. Practices and InnovationThe Story of Christine and Mike, Database AdministratorsCopy, Test, Document, ReviseFormal and Informal Organizational SupportRehearsing ProceduresOrganizational AwarenessMultiple Checks for Risky OperationsManaging RiskThe Story of Patrick, Capacity PlannerAllocation by the BookAllocation by ExperienceBy the Book versus by ExperienceManaging Innovation Reduces Risk5. Tools and AutomationThe Story of Shawn, OS AdministratorBalancing Customization and AutomationHomemade ToolsCoordinating with the CustomerCustomization, Automation, CoordinationThe Story of Diana and Mark, Storage AdministratorsAutomate as Much as PossibleBuilding One of a Kind ToolsThe Story of Jimmy, Database AdministratorCreating System Administration Tools6. Organizations and InformationThe Story of Henry and Ryan, Storage AdministratorsOptimizing within an OrganizationReducing Friction Between OrganizationsGrounding Past and FutureSynchronizing Work Across the OrganizationOrchestrating Information FlowThe Story of Amy, Transition ManagerInformation HubActivity HubOrchestrating OrganizationsOrchestrating the Flow of Information and Work7. Communities and TrustThe Story of Joe and Aaron, Security AdministratorsHuman Judgment RequiredWorking with the Local CommunityA Global Response to a Global AttackSharing Tools Locally and GloballyUsing and Developing Community ToolsSystem Administration across Communities8. Findings and LessonsSystem Administrators Depend on CollaborationSystem Administrators Create and Adapt Tools and PracticesOrganizations Orchestrate Information Flow and WorkSystem Administrators Depend on their CommunitiesAutomation Cannot Replace System AdministratorsConclusionEpilogue: Where are they now?George, Web AdministratorDot and Nora, Web AdministratorsDiana, Storage AdministratorRyan, Storage ArchitectAmy, Transition ManagerAaron and Joe, Security AdministratorsThe Journey ContinuesReferencesIndex