Taming Information Technology

Taming Information Technology : Lessons from Studies of System Administrators

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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 information technology. 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. Small failures 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 keep systems 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 and machines, 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 the important work of these IT workers is better appreciated, better understood, and better supported.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 310 pages
  • 156 x 232 x 14mm | 439.98g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195374126
  • 9780195374124
  • 1,727,577

About Eser Kandogan

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. Dr. Kandogan has over 50 publications in areas such as human-computer interaction and information visualization. Paul P. Maglio is a research scientist and manager at IBM Research - Almaden. Dr Maglio serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Service Research and Service Science, and was lead editor of the Handbook of Service Science. Dr Maglio has published more than 100 papers in computer science, cognitive science, and service science, and is an Associate Adjunct Professor at UC Merced, where he has taught service science since 2007. Eben Haber is a research staff member at IBM Research - Almaden, where he has worked on topics including IT System Administration (including studies of sysadmins, developing prototype administration tools, and designing new features for middleware management products), as well as research on end-user programming and information visualization. John Bailey is a Director of Product Design at CA Technologies, where he creates leading-edge product user experiences for the management of information technology. Previously, John was a research scientist at IBM Research - Almaden, where he did research on service systems, specializing in human factors in information technology service engagement and delivery. Prior to working at IBM, John was a Research Fellow with The Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area, conducting research in simulation, training, and virtual reality at the US Army Research Institute.show more

Table of contents

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ; PROLOGUE: WHY WE WROTE THIS BOOK ; Chapter 1: MOTIVATIONS AND METHODS ; Trends ; Business ; Labor ; Automation ; Our studies ; Questions ; Methods ; Descriptions ; Analysis ; Roadmap ; Summary ; Chapter 2: PEOPLE AND COLLABORATION ; The Story of George, Web Administrator ; Complex Technical Environment ; Mysterious Errors ; Remote Troubleshooting ; Obstacles to Collaboration ; Debugging George ; System Administration as Collaboration ; Chapter 3: TECHNOLOGIES AND COMPLEXITY ; The Story of Dot, Web Administrator ; Coordinating Information ; Grounding System State ; Manual Interactions ; Solving the Puzzle of Complexity ; The Story of the Crit Sit ; Transient Problem ; Summarizing System State ; Making Sense of Chaos ; Complex Interactions ; Grounding in a Complex Environment ; Chapter 4: PRACTICES AND INNOVATION ; The Story of Christine and Mike, Database Administrators ; Copy, Test, Document, Revise ; Formal and Informal Organizational Support ; Rehearsing Procedures ; Organizational Awareness ; Multiple Checks for Risky Operations ; Managing Risk ; The Story of Patrick, Capacity Planner ; Allocation by the Book ; Allocation by Experience ; By the Book versus by Experience ; Managing Innovation Reduces Risk ; Chapter 5: TOOLS AND AUTOMATION ; The Story of Shawn, OS Administrator ; Balancing Customization and Automation ; Homemade Tools ; Coordinating with the Customer ; Customization, Automation, Coordination ; The Story of Diana and Mark, Storage Administrators ; Automate as Much as Possible ; Building One of a Kind Tools ; The Story of Jimmy, Database Administrator ; Creating System Administration Tools ; Chapter 6: ORGANIZATIONS AND INFORMATION ; The Story of Henry and Ryan, Storage Administrators ; Optimizing within an Organization ; Reducing Friction Between Organizations ; Grounding Past and Future ; Synchronizing Work Across the Organization ; Orchestrating Information Flow ; The Story of Amy, Transition Manager ; Information Hub ; Activity Hub ; Orchestrating Organizations ; Orchestrating the Flow of Information and Work ; Chapter 7: COMMUNITIES AND TRUST ; The Story of Joe and Aaron, Security Administrators ; Human Judgment Required ; Working with the Local Community ; A Global Response to a Global Attack ; Sharing Tools Locally and Globally ; Using and Developing Community Tools ; System Administration across Communities ; Chapter 8: FINDINGS AND LESSONS ; System Administrators Depend on Collaboration ; System Administrators Create and Adapt Tools and Practices ; Organizations Orchestrate Information Flow and Work ; System Administrators Depend on their Communities ; Automation Cannot Replace System Administrators ; Conclusion ; EPILOGUE: WHERE ARE THEY NOW? ; George, Web Administrator ; Dot and Nora, Web Administrators ; Diana, Storage Administrator ; Ryan, Storage Architect ; Amy, Transition Manager ; Aaron and Joe, Security Administrators ; The Journey Continues ; REFERENCES ; Indexshow more

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