Roman Sandals

July 29, 2008

Super-user excuses

Filed under: musing, sysadmin, technology — Craig Lawton @ 1:12 pm

System administrators always get super-user access. Third parties, increasingly located wherever, are often granted super-user access as well, usually to smooth project implementations. Super-user access is thrown around willy-nilly because it’s a hell of lot easier than documenting privileges which is really, really boring work.

This leads to poor outcomes: downtime, systems in “undocumentable” states, security holes etc.

The horrible truth is that somebody somewhere must be able to gain super-user access when required. It can’t be avoided.

The other horrible truth is that when you allow super-user access only because properly defining a particular role is hard, you are in effect, giving up control of your environment. This is amplified when more than one team shares super-user access. It only takes one cowboy, or an innocent slip-up, to undermine confidence in an environment.

In this increasingly abstracted IT world, where architecture mandates shared, re-usable applications, where global resourcing mandates virtual remotely-located teams, where IT use and and server numbers exponentially increase and where businesses increasingly interact through gateways, security increasing looks like a feature tacked on at the last minute.

Security costs a lot and adds nothing to the bottom line – though lack of it can and will lead to some big bottom line subtractions.

The mainframe guys had this licked ages ago. The super-user excuse is looking rather thin.

The Age of Authorization is upon us…

Update: An amazing story from San Francisco, which outlines how lack of IT knowledge at the top of an organisation, and too much power devolved to to few IT staff, can cause much grief.

July 27, 2008

It’s really different this time…

Filed under: business, technology — Craig Lawton @ 11:28 am

The seems to be a common thread in the media that the IT industry is in for a downturn because the economy in general is struggling. I think it is different this time.

The last time IT struggled was at the end of the dot-com boom. The US dollar was really high, tech companies had massive inventories to clear and Cisco had been the biggest company in the world. The IT world had been set for a golden age which never arrived.

This time, the US dollar is low, tech companies are lean and in good shape having learnt their lessons, and surprise, surprise, the earnings of the big players are impressive and growing.

Intel, VMware, EMC, Apple, Microsoft, Google, all increased profits impressively. Some didn’t increase earnings enough and were “punished”, but this is clearly market sentiment. For example, VMware increased earnings by 40-ish% instead of 50-ish%, and their share price dropped. Strong international revenues especially are boosting results. SUN still struggles, but they were hit hardest by the dot-com era ending, and they still pull $4 billion in revenue each year.

Now big Australian corporate oligopolies, run by cosy, tech-ignorant boomers, have woken to the fact that they have under-invested in IT for the last decade, and have expensive legacy environments which are due for a big clear out. They have to spend money to make their environments lean; to make their businesses internationally competitive. And it’s a good time for CapEX in US dollars. Not only is IT gear very, very cheap compared to 8 years ago, each aussie dollar goes twice as far in US purchases as it once did.

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