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Are Linux Systems Administrator Positions Heading Toward Extinction?

Linux systems administrators have enjoyed job security, even through the recent recession. Organizations will always need professionals to maintain their hardware, right? Well, yes and no. The emergence of new technologies is changing the systems administrator role. While it may never be obsolete, the position as we know it is changing. In the past, you could find a Linux systems administrator working in a back room, maintaining a company’s servers; much of the role was performed behind the scenes. New technologies, however, are inviting systems administrators front and center.

If you’re a Linux systems administrator, here are the technologies you need to know to keep your career off the endangered species list:

Configuration Management Software – Traditionally, Linux systems administrators could only manage a set number of servers. The proliferation of configuration management packages changes that. Tools, such as Puppet and Chef, make it easy for systems administrators to maintain multiple servers at one time and quickly upload information.

Scripting Languages – Scripting languages, such as Ruby, Python and Perl, allow systems administrators to push programs onto multiple servers (as many as hundreds at a time) instead of just one. These languages automate a process that used to be manual, so that one systems administrator can do what it used to take 10 to do.

Virtualization Software – Virtualization is a trend in IT that allows organizations to create virtual servers on existing hardware. While before, organizations had to purchase many servers to handle high demand, they can now use virtualization software, such as VMware and Xen, to access virtual servers and share resources when needed. For example, a web site may have high-traffic times during the day when additional servers would be needed. Instead of a company buying additional hardware, they can use virtualization software to meet their needs. It is an efficient and cost-effective solution.

Cloud Computing – Cloud computing refers to a set of pooled computing resources that are delivered over the Internet from a shared data center. It allows organizations to access applications as a service rather than a product. Systems administrators are able to upload applications faster, manage them more easily, and they require less maintenance. Cloud computing offers greater flexibility because resources (servers, networks and storage) can be adjusted to meet fluctuating demand.

These technologies are changing the role of the Linux systems administrator. In fact, we’re seeing the emergence of a new position, the DevOps Engineer, which blurs the line between software development and operations. Instead of focusing solely on hardware, administrators take a collaborative approach and work closely with the development team to write code, fix bugs and help push out the product. Linux systems administrators who embrace these new technologies will be more marketable and will have job security for years to come.

Photo Credit: hightech-highway

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