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So there I was recently in a confidential vendor briefing being presented with an upcoming product that promises to be the Holy Grail to systems capacity planners for all platforms. It was an interesting session but it’s a good thing it was in the morning: after lunch I’d have been Quite Sleepy. Doesn’t matter really, except for one little piece of one particular slide, which reminded me, as often happens, that I’m Always Grumpy.

The slide in question used a bunch of little click-art people in various roles to illustrate how much better a place the world will be and for whom, once we all just buy the vendor’s product. There was the Capacity Manager and the Service Manager, and a bunch of other people. Second from the left was the Cloud Admin. “The what?” I practically shouted it aloud. Here’s what that little piece of that page of the presentation looked like:

Now the Cloud is a wonderful thing, don’t get me wrong. Panacea to the masses, Silver Bullet for all things that ail I/T and so forth. I really think it will bring benefits, but like so many things shiny and new its advantages can be and have been, um, how shall we say, overstated? I’ve even read, in one of the more idiotic articles I’ve ever seen, that the advent of the Cloud means no more programmers will be needed. Full disclosure: that article did NOT come from this same vendor! But this silly little illustration is mistakenly consistent with that sort of hyped-up and misguided replacement for thinking.

In I/T we have several kinds of things that need administrators, or Admins. Computing systems like mainframes and distributed servers need Systems Admins. Databases, which are often large, complex, finicky and unwieldy, need Database Admins. Storage systems need Admins and networks do too. Security systems also need Admins as do many business applications. But a cloud is not a thing in itself. A cloud is a collection of systems, storage, networks and (depending on whether you’re looking for IaaS or PaaS or SaaS) maybe sub-systems and applications too. A cloud needs no Admin; its components do.

I couldn’t help myself. In my outside voice I asked, “Is a Cloud Admin just someone who’s too young and hip to want to be called a lame, old-fashioned System Admin?” The presenter knows my snide questions from prior experience so he wasn’t even fazed. Bless his black vendor heart, he just chuckled and said yes.

Is there a lesson in this? Yes. Watch your language, even in as little a thing as a toss-off illustration. Those of us who have been in business – whatever business – for more than a few years might notice those little mistakes, and we’ll lose respect for you if you show us that you’re not thinking.

alwaysgrumpy is Jonathan Gladstone, jbglad59@sympatico.ca or follow me on Twitter @jbglad59.

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