Google grew at a time when the traditional role of the system administrator was being transformed. It questioned system administration, as if to say: we can’t afford to hold tradition as an authority, we have to think anew, and we don’t have time to wait for everyone else to catch up. In the introduction to Principles of Network and System Administration [Bur99], I claimed that system administration was a form of human-computer engineering. This was strongly rejected by some reviewers, who said “we are not yet at the stage where we can call it engineering.” At the time, I felt that the field had become lost, trapped in its own wizard culture, and could not see a ...
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