Sysadmins will always need core competencies such as networking and security, but increasingly, they can differentiate themselves by mastering new platforms and tools. Previously in this series, we’ve provided an overview of essentials, evolving network skills, and security. In this article, we’ll look at how experience with open cloud computing platforms such as OpenStack can make a difference in your sysadmin career.
The cloud advantage
Experience with emerging cloud infrastructure tools and open source technologies can make a substantial compensation difference for sysadmins. According to a salary study from Puppet, “Sysadmins aren’t making as much as their peers. The most common salary range for sysadmins in the United States is $75,000-$100,000, while the four other most common practitioner titles (systems developer/engineer, DevOps engineer, software developer/engineer, and architect) are most likely to earn $100,000-$125,000.”
If you search recruitment sites for sysadmin positions that demand cloud skills, opportunities abound. There are many positions that require strong cloud monitoring skills, and jobs that demand facility with both open source and popular public cloud platforms.
Certification also makes a difference. The value of cloud-centric certification is being driven by shortages in the number of skilled cloud-skilled professionals. CEB, a company focused on best practices in technology, recently provided Forbes with the results of a database dive on cloud computing hiring trends. It found shortages in expertise surrounding many cloud computing platforms, and it also called out a strong job market for skilled professionals. In fact, $124,300 was the median advertised salary for cloud computing professionals in 2016, according to the database.
Some sysadmins are blogging about their experiences in adding OpenStack skills to their arsenals. For example, Michalis Giannos, writing for Stackmasters, said, “As an old-school system administrator, what impressed me about OpenStack is that it extends resource management over to storage and network — that is, going beyond the CPU and memory management options that you get with the typical virtual machine offerings. Having a unified view of your computing resources utilization, and having the ability to manage it from a single place is a very powerful feature. And it’s especially mind blowing, even to an old hat like me, raised up on the CLI, that you can access all that power from an easy to use web-based UI.”
Giannos also said, “The ease of creating images and customized flavors of your virtual machines allows you to deploy a new server in minutes without having to repeat trivial configurations all over again. Heck, you can literally create an HTTP Load Balancer AND the back-end service farm for it in just a few minutes.”
Indeed, OpenStack, CloudStack, Nextcloud, and some other open cloud platforms automate and streamline many tasks that old school sysadmins may be most familiar with. With all of this in mind, providing cloud platform training aimed directly at sysadmins is on the radar at technology vendors focused on the cloud and at independent training organizations.
The Linux difference
Fluency with Linux can make a big difference for sysadmins, which should be no surprise. Several salary studies have shown that Linux-savvy sysadmins are better compensated than others. With that in mind, note that Linux is the bedrock for the majority of cloud deployments, according to The OpenStack Foundation.
This leads to a multi-faceted career path that many sysadmins can take to differentiate themselves from the pack. In fact, Tom’s IT Pro has called this path “the triple threat career path to IT success.” Specifically, it involves obtaining certification as a Linux-savvy sysadmin, as a project manager, and as a cloud administrator.
Training options for Linux-focused sysadmins are expanding accordingly. For professional certification, CompTIA Linux+ is an option, as are certifications from Linux Professional Institute. The Linux Foundation’s Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator (LFCS) training and certification is another good choice.
Earning the title of Red Hat Certified System Administrator in Red Hat OpenStack demonstrates that you have the skills needed to create, configure, and manage private clouds using Red Hat OpenStack Platform. Red Hat’s training for this certification covers configuring and managing images, adding compute nodes, and managing storage using Swift and Cinder.
Mirantis and other vendors also offer certified OpenStack administrator curriculum. The Linux Foundation offers an OpenStack Administration Fundamentals course, which serves as preparation for certification. The course is available bundled with the COA exam, enabling students to learn the skills they need to work as an OpenStack-skilled administrator and get the certification to prove it. A unique feature of the course is that it provides each participant with a live OpenStack lab environment that can be rebooted at any time. Customers also have access to the course and the lab environment for a full 12 months after purchase. Like the exam, the course is available anytime, anywhere. It is online and self-paced — definitely worth looking into.
The OpenStack Foundation works directly with The Linux Foundation to make the Certified OpenStack Administrator (COA) exam available, and getting certified is a rock solid credential for many sysadmins. The Guide to the Open Cloud 2016 from The Linux Foundation also includes a comprehensive look at other cloud platforms and tools that many sysadmins would be wise to pick up skills for, including tools that orbit the open cloud ecosystem.
Clearly, sysadmins interested in adding meaningful skills and credentials to their arsenals should not ignore the cloud. Training and certification opportunities are proliferating, and widespread skills shortages are well documented. Next time, we’ll take a closer look at configuration and automation.
Learn more about essential sysadmin skills: Download the Future Proof Your SysAdmin Career ebook now.