I could consider a variety of titles for this short article. For example, we could call it “Stupid, the Internet isn’t the sum of all information technology”; or “Have you really stopped thinking about your Local Area Network?”; or “Have you ever heard of mainframes?”. I expect you get the gist of the topic.
My latest adventure with local networks came when I had to do a refresher on setting up and configuring OpenLDAP. I hadn’t done one since the publication of “LDAP System Administration” in 2003. Thank goodness for Gerald Cater. He did a splendid job of reminding me about installing and configuring directories.
Right now, I have the task of setting up an OpenLDAP directory. Since I have used Debian as the underlying OS, everything I need comes right off the default /etc/apt/sources.list. I don’t have to compile everything from source and I have the Debian applications database to help me maintain my “directory” of installed packages. I’ll leave off the discussion of the pros, cons and other ways of keeping track of what one has installed on his or her server.
I began working with LDAP directories around 1998 when the FAA contacted me about setting up several DEC’s Alta Vista directories servers around the US/Globe. The problem at the time dealt with distributing directory trees. We didn’t have LDAPv3 or the corresponding RFCs. We encountered some serious challenges at the time trying to bind different directory objects to one another on different servers.
Reacquainting myself with basic LDAP brought back a flood of memories. I even correlated relearning LDAP with such things as attempts to regain proficiency in some foreign languages I studied over the years. Truth be known, much of what we gather in the course of our work lives in our short-term memory. We study, get it down and move to the next subject. Once I installed and configured LDAP, I went on to something else. It reminds me of being in Cancun one time and while trying to remember the word for butter at breakfast, I told the waiter to bring me a butterfly.
Which brings me back to the central subject of this article. System administrators have to babysit servers and users. While we might wind up babysitting servers on the Internet, we can’t leave the many areas of our skill set in short-term memory. We should all remember that the bulk of our tasks usually involve users. We wouldn’t practice this profession without the internal clients.
In researching job ads for Linux administrators I noticed that NFS, LDAP, SAMBA, application and database servers, with an emphasis on automation and monitoring dominated the qualifications for many administrators with DNS, LDAP, FTP, SMTP, Postfix/Sendmail, etc. accompanying the requirements. While other requirements existed in those ads, most of them had to do with Soft skills like functioning as a liaison with other internal support groups such as Change Control, Application Development, Engineering, Databases Administrators, Web Services, Storage, Intel (Intelligence), Operations and Command Centers.
So, consider this a reminder. The Internet fascinates many of us. But, if we want to make a living in this business, we should remind ourselves of the cold hard reality of network troubleshooting, escalated service desk support, technical support, on-call consulting advice for the hardware and operating system environments, etc.