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Challenges of Self-Managing Systems: a System Administrator’s Perspective. Dr. Alva L. Couch, Associate Professor of Computer Science, Tufts University, Medford, MA USA couch@cs.tufts.edu. Sysadmins and self-managing systems. Self-managing systems: built from bottom up, system-centric

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Challenges of Self-Managing Systems: a System Administrator’s Perspective


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    1. Challenges of Self-Managing Systems: a System Administrator’s Perspective Dr. Alva L. Couch, Associate Professor of Computer Science, Tufts University, Medford, MA USA couch@cs.tufts.edu

    2. Sysadmins and self-managing systems • Self-managing systems: built from bottom up, system-centric • How to make systems more robust • System administration: built from the top down, administrator (people) centric • How to empower people to do their jobs

    3. Sysadmin Challenges for Self-managing Systems • Personal liability: it is not the self-healing system that can lose its job • Semantic distance and the problem of common referents: system administrators do not understand what self-healing systems do • Expense of policy changes: small changes can incur large (political) costs • Interference with auditing: can’t both “fix it” and “analyze it”

    4. Desirable Forms of Self-Management • Strong closures: “keep the box closed!” • “Half-open” is worse than “open” • We don’t want to debug “your” code (or “tweak your knobs”!) • Guarantees: “what can we expect?” • SLA for administrators • Controls concentrate on SLA parameters: optimization/intrusiveness tradeoffs

    5. “Like Hardware” • No need to build system • Automatic baselining and upgrades • Directly modify only configuration • Configuration concentrates on SLA • Replacement if fails • Remote diagnosis

    6. Low-Hanging Fruit • Closed, optimized network services • File sharing • Web services • Don’t forget management aids • Distributed • backup and recovery • email and spam control • firewalling and virus control • Tiered (local/remote) filesystems • User authentication and authorization

    7. The Near Future • Commoditization of services: file service becomes like routing; a reliable closed box. Already almost true. • Gradual commoditization of higher-level “policy-free” services, e.g., user privilege management. • System administrator’s job becomes component engineering.

    8. What Won’t Happen • Peer-peer adoption without strong convergence and fault-tolerance guarantees (peer-peer is a “problem”, not a “solution”) • Commoditization of administrator interface and business policies: “variant taxonomies of policy”

    9. Standards • Existing standards • Will aid developers; should not concern administrators • About how a tool should interact, not about how an administrator should interact • Standards that have helped sysadmins: • pop, imap, smtp, … • Sysadmin controls service; user controls choice of client/GUI • Some potentially helpful standards • Semantics of SLA parameters for component solutions • Base (“policy-free?”) semantics for user bindings including authentication and authorization.

    10. Conclusions • Build self-managing components. • Provide an interface with strong semantics. • Let sysadmins do the rest: • User interface • Translation from business policy to system policy.