Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder
What Systems Administrators Do
Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2013 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.
I hope you'll read two blog entries I just wrote, whether you consider yourself a "techie" or not. They're meant to explain why the recent Wikimedia data center migration was difficult and took a long time, and how our systems administration department has started being able to respond to problems faster, and prevent them. And I wrote them in the hope that non-programmers will be able to appreciate my colleagues' work.
From duct tape to puppets: How a new data center became an opportunity to do things right (using Puppet for configuration management).
How the Technical Operations team stops problems in their tracks (fixing crises and preventing them with Nagios, Graphite, & Ganglia for monitoring & profiling).
Sometimes non-sysadmins don't appreciate the work that sysadmins do, building and maintaining infrastructure so the rest of us can use websites without thinking about it. But it's important work and I hope these posts help Wikipedia and Wikimedia users recognize it.