The Coming Linux Admin Shortage

Michael Parish
Let's face it. There's no other enterprise IT buzzword that generates more attention than 'cloud computing.' For all the talk about virtualization, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), social media, cloud storage, etc., it's easy for something as mundane as an operating system to get lost in the shuffle. What good do they do anyway?

If it's the Linux operating system, well, apparently its enough to warrant a lot of new attention from a number of businesses, homes and organizations. There's no doubt, Linux adoption is spreading-an August 2010 report from Jeffrey Hammond, the principal analyst at Forrester Research, declared that "Linux has crossed the chasm to mainstream adoption.' And then there is the fact that everyone's favorite new computer, IBM's Watson, relies heavily on open source software, including Linux. Take that, Ken Jennings.

For many companies, Linux just makes strategic sense. As businesses continue to increase their risk tolerance toward open source software within the enterprise, it's not surprising that the following benefits begin to look even more attractive:

Cost structure-Linux is inexpensive (often free), as the cost of ownership, compared to licensed OSes like UNIX and Windows, is relatively minimal.

Support-Like any open source platform, Linux boasts an extremely rich user support community.

Security-There is a reduced susceptibility to virus, malware and spyware issues.

Customizable and flexible-Linux provides greater freedom for customization and it also supports a wide variety of hardware options and installation configurations.

Without the limitations of proprietary OS dependencies, and as more IT organizations are tasked with 'doing more with less,' it's easy to envision Linux's low-cost scalability, flexibility and performance gaining increased traction.

But like with any IT operation there are limitations. Constraints of open source software aside, which certainly should not override the benefits, one of the biggest roadblocks to enterprise adoption may be the dearth of IT professionals who are proficient enough in the technology to handle design, implementation and support.

Facts are facts. Due to the decrease in IT spending and demand for IT scalability and flexibility, and coinciding attraction of Linux, we have a perfect storm brewing for resource shortages. System administrators and IT managers in particular, schooled on Windows and other platforms, generally lack the requisite experience. While education and training are critical components to filling this chasm, the fact remains that most businesses lack the budget to get their internal resources trained. Additionally, more technical operations teams outside of IT are competing for the resources with IT organizations that do actually boast these skills.

So how will Linux-ready enterprises approach finding these talented individuals in the meantime? It looks like contractors are in prime position to fill the void until the knowledge gap is cleared. Companies that anticipate this gap, and put enough of an investment into their training budgets, will have a distinct advantage. Ongoing success will then depend on balancing the right mix of contractors while also developing employees.

Like the relatively uncharted waters of enterprise adoption of Linux, it will become increasingly necessary for businesses to embrace the contractor model as IT organizations continues to progress as a lean, but fully functional, operation. 


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Apr 19, 2011 5:04 PM Adam Gonnerman Adam Gonnerman  says:
As someone trying very hard to learn, train and get certifications to enter the Linux sysadmin field, this sounds good to me. Bad for Linux, though, if enough professionals can't be found. Reply
Apr 19, 2011 7:04 PM Anonymous Anonymous  says:
Actually, there is no shortage of Linux sysadms in the USA. I have a RHCE and an SCSA and have not been able to get a job in the last year. Willing to move to any part of the USA but nobody wants to touch a very experienced 50 year old white male. Reply
Apr 19, 2011 9:04 PM Anonymous Anonymous  says:
Constantly training is the only way to stay ahead. It isn't like MS drones can't "relearn" something, but the question remains: Will they be able to let go of the suckling mother's milk that is Fisher Microsoft Price? Reply
Apr 19, 2011 11:04 PM Marco Shaw Marco Shaw  says:
"Security � There is a reduced susceptibility to virus, malware and spyware issues." Is Linux really more secure or just *less targeted*? Don't get me wrong, I love Linux, but one must be realistic just the same. Marco RHCE Reply
Apr 20, 2011 10:59 AM Anonymous Anonymous  says: in response to Marco Shaw
Since you have RHCE in your sig, I would think you would know where to look. Since most malware and such targetting MS is based on Windows settings that allow and encourate executing any code that is linked through activeX (among other things), Linux is pretty much immune from that automatic execution model, so is inherently already secure from those such attacks. Another point is that MS is the low-hanging fruit for script kiddies due to MS insistence on "user experience" that security is a bolt-on rather than ground-up implementation of security. Besides, as noted, the Internet and the majority of servers are non-MS servers - which exceed the count of MS desktops and servers, The other thing to consider is that MS is pretty much still relegated to desktop users where phishing and other social-engineering is so much easier. Would you (as someone intent on breaking into something) get more street cred by hacking into a major organization/internet insfrastructure or breaking into grandma's desktop that mostly has her grandkid pictures on it? Reply
Apr 20, 2011 12:04 PM CrustyBOFH CrustyBOFH  says:
@Anonymous 50-year-old RHCE - I turn down 2 or more calls a month, sometimes as many as 10, from firms looking for RHCEs in Atlanta (and some other areas). My certification helped me change jobs twice last year. A job I held for 15+ years was "eliminated" for budget reasons, and I was re-employed within 5 weeks in a contract job. A few months later, my current employer recruited me directly. In both cases, having the RHCE made a difference. Last week I took 2 calls from companies, and both said they are struggling to find skilled Linux admins. Reply
Apr 20, 2011 12:29 PM Anonymous Anonymous  says: in response to Marco Shaw
Yes, Linux really is more secure. It is derived from UNIX, an OS designed from the ground up to survive on networks, unlike Windows that was designed for single user operation. I've used Linux for at least ten years with no security issues. And that is without any add-on security software. I've never even heard of security software for linux. If it exists it's just for people who feel the need, and don't mind paying, for a security blanket. Reply
Apr 20, 2011 1:04 PM Anonymous Anonymous  says:
There is not a shortage of Linux trained IT staff. Never really has been. Just like 10 years ago when the same sources were claiming there was a lack of trained system admins. The real problem has been and always will be badly informed HR departments. Most HR are not computer savy even in the tech industry, thus have no Idea what they are trying to hire. Reply
Apr 20, 2011 1:04 PM Subie Subie  says:
We just let 3/4 of our team go. Now that we've migrated to the cloud, there's no reason to have nearly as many bodies in and around the data center with nothing to do. It really *is* game-changing. Reply
Apr 20, 2011 3:05 PM Anonymous Anonymous  says: in response to Anonymous
HR looks at the alphabet soup of letters behind the applicant's name. If it doesn't meet XYZ criteria (such as having a current CCNP, with 5 years experience, and in the healthcare industry), then HR round files it. I've been using computers and related technology since 1978, when I started at age 12....long before any certs were created. I have them now, but I wouldn't trade all the alphabet soup papers for experience any day of the week. Reply
Apr 20, 2011 3:08 PM Anonymous Anonymous  says: in response to Anonymous
Hi, Where are you looking? Try the MD/DC/VA area, cant get enough qualified people here. Reply
Apr 20, 2011 3:47 PM asdf@asdf.tld asdf@asdf.tld  says: in response to Anonymous
if you can't get a job in IT, it's on you buddy. if you're a veteran that can serve as sysadmin, dba, network engineer, and can script, read some code ...there's no reason you shouldn't be making $80,000 somewhere. ...and a lot more if you're truly talented. no if you don't have any exceptional deal breakers, like you're super ugly, super fat (not just IT fat, but really f'n huge), or some other other personality tick, then I don't see how you can't have a job land on your head. don't you have any sysadmin buddies? Once you been in the business a while, you have to know some other SAs... use them. email them. "hey! where's my job?!" (yes, sarcasm, but the point is to inquire) if you live in a crap location for IT, or economically depressed area, get the hell out. move to a country that actually has a strong economy. Like Texas. I'm just throwing things against a wall to see what sticks at this point, but something is wrong if you can't find an SA job. If in fact you were formerly an SA, with provable skills. Reply
Apr 21, 2011 5:31 AM Anonymous Anonymous  says: in response to Anonymous
Look at Suse with Yast tons of server tasks can be done from the GUI and it's super easy. Reply
Apr 21, 2011 5:04 PM Anonymous Anonymous  says:
US Immigration issues have made many skilled people leave the country, or not letting them move to US. Outsourcing and opportunities would still have this balanced in Europe and Asia regions.. Reply
Apr 23, 2011 2:04 AM Dave Hardy Dave Hardy  says:
All good comments and indicative of my own experiences over twenty years of IT, from DEC PDP-11 and OpenVMS, Windows 3.1 through Server 2008, and Linux from Red Hat 6.2 through RHEL 5, Fedora 12, Ubuntu and Mint 10, and Suse 11. Every shop I've been at since '95 has been mixed Windows and UNIX/Linux and I note that while the M$ servers and desktops get rebooted constantly and for the most trivial reasons, the other o.s. goes months and years without. And security is better, too, although I recognize that Windows is the low-hanging fruit and much more vulnerable anyway. Now up for two different Linux sys admin gigs as a temp contractor, after just finishing one such assignment, all positions with huge corporate entities in a very rural part of the country. Best wishes to my fellow IT vets out there; rest assured there IS age discrimination and also rest assured that most HR departments are clueless. Get to a hiring manager first and network like a mofo. Reply
Apr 25, 2011 11:01 AM In Cognito In Cognito  says: in response to Anonymous
Whilst most Windows machines get virii and exploits that either "spam all your friends" or break your computer, Linux machines are usually used in less obvious ways. As anyone who runs a big, publicly receiving mailserver or a big public CMS knows, keeping your box secure and spam-free is a full-time job. Any exposed service running on there (HTTP, SMTP, FTP, SSH) can (and most likely will) be exploited by automated scripts. If you let your guard down, you'll find giant mail-logs or suspicious filesystem usage waiting for you in your logs. Reply
Apr 25, 2011 11:05 AM In Cognito In Cognito  says: in response to Anonymous
Whilst big companies fear "targeted attacks" (DoS, corporate espionage), Joe Schmoe should worry about botnet infections. A thousand grandmas with a computer can pump out a _LOT_ of spam in a single day. Or they could be puppets in the botnet, actually DDoS'ing a big company. Times have changed, since the days of ping-flooding someone with a high-bandwidth machine. Reply
Apr 27, 2011 5:04 PM Mike Mike  says:
There isn't any shortage of admins, but maybe rather a shortage of employers willing to pay an admin for what they are worth. If one were to put a nice six figure salary on a linux admin job, believe me you will get plenty of skilled candidates applying for the position. I got my RHCE to prove to myself I know what I say I know, however it didn't get me 7.8% increase in pay. Keep in mind with the inflation we're seeing and the devaluing of the dollar, a six figure salary can often been seen as middle-income, especially if you're on either of the coasts. Reply
Sep 18, 2011 9:09 AM E.T. Anderson E.T. Anderson  says:
My experience in the Seattle area was that plenty of companies wanted Linux skills, but nobody was willing to train. Every Linux job wanted two, three, or seven to ten years experience. New admins won't rise in the ranks if they're never granted entry to the ranks.I eventually did find a Linux job, but not in the Seattle area. Reply
Mar 24, 2012 6:03 PM Anonymous34 Anonymous34  says:
Thanks for the useful article you provided. However, I thought that maybe someone can help me � last night my laptop got infected by �redirect virus�. The only solution I found is Google redirect virus removal, but it�s not free. I�m really confused, because my windows 7 gets so many viruses daily and I don�t have a reliable antivirus. Maybe I should change my OS to Linux instead? Is it a good choice? Reply
Aug 2, 2016 12:49 AM kerneltraining kerneltraining  says:
The scope for the career in Linux admin is great and it doesn't going to go down your career. Linux is the foundation for many technical courses like cloud computing and virtualisation. Reply

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