[MAD-SAGE] more on the Sysadmin Book of Knowledge

Date: Fri, 15 Nov 2002 11:00:06 -0600
From: dparter@xxxxxxxxxxx (David Parter)
Subject: [MAD-SAGE] more on the Sysadmin Book of Knowledge
During yesterday's SAGE status report, we had some discussion of the
Book of Knowledge project. Here's more information. If you have any
questions, please send email to kolstad@xxxxxxxxx


System Administration Book of Knowledge

SAGE's overarching goal is to advance the state of sysadmin
professionalism.  The ensemble of all the various professions appears
to have a number of items in common:
	* University degree program
	* Code of ethics
	* Certification
	* Ongoing training
	* Conferences for sharing new practice
	* Best practices
Most of these items are supported by the profession's foundation in
theory and practice: the Book of Knowledge (BoK).  Some professions
use the term Taxonomy to describe their BoK.

The BoK is not an encyclopedia; it's not even a dictionary. For system
administration, it's a listing of all the items that anyone in the
profession would need to know.  These range from the extremely low
level (wiring an RS-232 connector) to the highest level (design a
world-wide network for financial transaction processing).  In both
cases, though, the BoK lists the information by its title, not by its
content.  Whereas the topic of 'Backups' could easily cover three 500
page volumes, the BoK has but a paragraph or two.

Once the BoK reaches the level it can be reviewed and criticized, it
can be leveraged to:
	* Make the "What System Administrators Do" book
	* Regularize certification levels and test contents
	* Serve as the foundation for a university curriculum
	* Serve as the foundation for other curricula, as well:
	  -- 10 week short course
	  -- 16-18 week full-semester (trimester) course
	  -- one-year sequence
	  -- two-year sequence
	* Serve as the foundation and categorization mechanism for
	  ongoing training
	* Serve as the foundation and categorization mechanism for best
	  practices books (white papers, monographs, etc.)

The current BoK (available to anyone willing to share their initials
and e-mail address at: http://ace.delos.com/taxongate) has a shade
over 2000 line items broken into 40 topics, each with as many as
51 properties.  The highest level partitioning (as currently
implemented; this is subject ot lots of change) looks like this:

	* General
	* SW
	* Data Center/Machine Room & Environment
	* People
	* Services
	* Networks/networking
	* User hardware (i.e., desktop hardware)
	* Data management

These nine topics are elaborated into 40 more detailed topics.  For
each of those 40 topics, a set of as many as 51 properties is
discussed.  Not every topic has entries for all the properties, but
the grid is quite full.  Here are the properties:

* Genl:	Legal			    * Tech: Configuration
* Genl:	Ethics			    * Tech: Troubleshooting
* Mgmt:	Vendor			    * Tech: Day-to-day production
* Mgmt:	Customer		    * Tech: Optimizations
* Mgmt:	Policies		    * Tech: Perf tuning
* Mgmt:	Change mgmt		    * Tech: Naming Issues
* Mgmt:	Education		    * Tech: Process automation
* Mgmt:	Communication		    * Tech: Expanding body of knowledge
* Mgmt:	Other			    * Tech: Generalization
* Mon: Performance		    * Tech: Esthetics/Elegance
* Mon: Integrity		    * Tech: Mobility
* Mon: Asset mgmt/Audit		    * Tech: Availability/Continuity
* Mon: Accounting		    * Tech: Other
* Mon: Problems			    * Secur: Authentication
* Mon: Mgmt reporting		    * Secur: Authorization
* Mon: Process cert conf (9001)	    * Secur: Policy
* Mon: Standards/compatibility	    * Secur: Integrity
* Mon: Compatibility		    * Secur: Confidentiality/Privacy
* Mon: Licenses			    * Secur: Other
* Mon: Other			    * Usability: Human (ADA, i18n)
* Plan:	Capacity		    * Usability: mech/envir
* Plan:	Budgets			    * Usability: Ergonomics
* Plan:	Technology		    * Usability: Safety
* Plan:	Prepurchase data/anal	    * Usability: Other
* Plan:	Other			    * Miscellaneous
* Tech:	Architecture/design

The BoK's next step is to write a chapter (perhaps printers or
backups) in many different styles to try to learn:
	* how to factor common concerns from the topics (i.e.,
	  no reason to mention "secure passwords" 43 times)
	* how to present the information in an indexable, discussable,
	  readable format
	* how to present the information in a rich yet concise manner
	* how to make the information reasonable
	* how to sort and classify the information

The BoK committee is always looking for new members.  If you'd like
to participate, register at http://ace.delos.com/taxongate and you
will receive the occasional e-mail when the project goes into "high
productivity" mode.  The e-mail traffic is extremely low unless you
are a member of an active working group (which will use a different

The BoK is a fundamental underpinning to SAGE's professionalism plans.
Please consider joining the project if you are interested.

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