16.1 Expanding the system administrator's role in your organization
Linux on the mainframe will change your IT environment, and you will have to acquire new skill, either by training or by hiring. Both the requirements of the changed environment and the changed roles of staff members will change the balances within your IT team. The early adopters of Linux on the mainframe stress that success hinges on a well-functioning systems administration team who's members are ready to learn while implementing the projects. This section summarizes some points that have turned out to be crucial to success.
IT infrastructures in commercial enterprises justify their existence by supporting the company's business goals and opportunities. As organizational divisions, they have deliverables probably services that they provide. System administrators have to balance the business demands on an IT infrastructure with the technical possibilities that this infrastructure can offer. To perform this bridging function, the administrator needs an insight into both worlds.
It is important that lead system administrators are prepared to look beyond their purely technical passions and take an interest in the business objectives of their companies. They are in the best position to understand the implications that a business strategy has for IT and can understand the costs and trade-offs that a decision might mean for IT. It is the system administrator who must translate the policies into suitable procedures (see 12.4, "Procedures") and implements or leads the implementation of these procedures. This role makes the system administrator a key member of your decision-making team.
System administrators are specialists in their field and usually take pride in their skill. A business manager who interferes with the technical decisions of a system administrator is as likely to cause offense as a patient is who tells his medical doctor what cure to prescribe. As a patient, you have to trust in your doctor's judgment and give up some control over yourself. Similarly, for the working relationship to be fruitful, the business manager must have confidence in the professional capabilities of the system administrator.
This confidence in the administrator must translate into freedom to make technical decisions. Problems can be avoided if the expectations of what the IT division is to deliver and the constraints within which the system administrator must operate are clearly communicated. The customary language for this communication is policy and SLA. For individuals who have been cooperating well for some time, this formal communication is less important than for new teams or projects, such as Linux on the mainframe, where the working relationship might have to be negotiated.
On the technical side, a good Linux administrator takes an interest in the activities of the Open Source community. Staying in touch with new developments is essential in this very dynamic field. Permitting or encouraging a Linux administrator's involvement in the Open Source community is the equivalent of permitting or encouraging an administrator to attend courses or join user groups for other operating systems. An active member of the Open Source community is likely to be more resourceful as a Linux administrator.
In the tradition of Open Source, participation is centered on communication through the Internet. The main expense is probably the administrator's time invested with much lower travel expenses and course fees than you might expect for active involvement with other operating systems.