After having setup the sysadmin console, it's now time to find out

Where to start?


When I start a new job somewhere, the biggest challenge in the beginning is to find out, what to do, where, when and how. In most companies this becomes clear after a few days. In ETH, it's a bit different: There are many internal service providers, each with very different focus. To find out which are the machines I have to take care of, where they are located and which services are running on them took me about a year.

Step one: My bosses and the local sysadmins

The ones who hired me should best know, what needs to be done. After getting some basic information, the next information centre here in ETH is the ISG, the "IT Service Group", which takes care of general IT issues in the department. In my case this is the the isginf.

Your local ISG

So, what's about that ISG thingy? Why is it needed if I am hired as a sysadmin? Aren't we competing against each other? The simple answer is: No. While the ISG is also doing sysadmin related stuff, their focus is on a broader view than the one of a dedicated sysadmin. To quote from their site:

...purchasing and repairing hardware....
...operating various central services...
...administration of several hundreds of workstations...
...allow the concentrate on their main tasks...

So as a sysadmin, maintaining hundreds of server and cluster machines, focussing on the groups demands, the sysadmin is mostly working in a different area. On the other hand, a sysadmin can have the ISG maintain stuff in the group, which they can do good and the sysadmin probably does not want to do (like Windows workstations).

Step two: Retrieve information from newly know sources

After the initial contact with the local folks, I'm ready to dig into other sources I am know aware of. In this case:

Systems Group in detail

Most of the information related to the sysadmin job for the Systems Group can be found in the wiki. Though the wiki is probably always a little bit behind the reality, it is heavily used and gives pointers to the right places.

/sans/: Sysadmins home

This is still a pretty young project, but unique at ETH: It is a regular sysadmin meeting and information exchange, without the formal stuff or the the borders of departements. You may find a lot of sysadmin related information directly on the website or find out more in one of the meetings.

ID: Informatikdienste

The ID are offering basic IT services for the whole ETH. Most of the network stuff and things like the Blog service is made by them. Although as a sysadmin you're mostly just using their services without interacting with the people behind them, it's a good thought to get in contact with them: In case the network is not working anymore, they are the right ones to ask for help.

There's a "little" trap though: The ID combine a lot of "smaller" departements and one has to find the right one for the right problem.

Step three: Not offering your own services

While after some time a sysadmin will find out that a particular service is missing in the group, it is probably worth not to offer it yourself: Although one may get the impression that this particular service is not available at ETH, you may almost always be wrong:

Almost every service is already being provided somewhere at ETH.

Step four: Offering your own services

After one has tried out the various services, you may still be unsatisfied: Either because the service is not being offered they way you require or it takes you a lot of time and energy to use it. While it may be worth and useful to run your own service, always triple check step three!