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Cloud Services Shift Roles for System Administrators



Cloud computing has shifted many tasks away from system administrators who were previously responsible for managing servers which were located on premises or in dedicated data centers.  Many system management tasks such as all hardware upgrades, repairs and replacements and networking issues are now handled by cloud providers (Amazon Web Services, Microsoft,  Google and others).  In most cases, security and other patches to the operating system are performed by cloud providers as well. Cloud providers have been successful in meeting their service level agreements, and set the standard for managing data centers at a large scale with the latest hardware, facilities, and best practices.

Cloud databases do not require the same database administration (DBA) activities, at least for some lower level tasks, but there are still requirements for DBAs to monitor and correct performance and improve data quality. It can be challenging to determine the cause of a database performance issue because the responsibility for the system is spread across several people (and perhaps different companies).

Other system administration tasks remain the responsibility of the customer, such as creating and removing users and assigning permissions.

Cloud computing has changed the way that organizations handle system administration. Because cloud services need fewer administrators, some organizations have eliminated positions or moved system administrators to new roles.  A hybrid cloud environment may result in division of labor among on premises and cloud system administrators.  Specialized skills can also mean that different people manage different cloud services, increasing the number of system administrators.

Troubleshooting may involve multiple system administrators from the customer and cloud providers.  this can waste time and lengthen interruptions of service, especially if incorrect diagnoses ascribe the problem to the wrong admin.

Because Microsoft Dynamics is integrated with Office 365, my clients must ensure close cooperation among system administrators for Dynamics 365 and Office 365.  Usually a department "owns" a Dynamics solution, while the enterprise information technology department "owns" the network and email.  Therefore, the Office 365 admin creates user accounts but the Dynamics 365 admin assigns rights within Dynamics 365 solutions.

I wrote another blog post explaining how Microsoft divides the roles for various admins, but a similar division of labor is applicable for other cloud providers, and even more complex for hybrid deployments with multiple providers.

The best time to find out how your admin coordination is working is before you have a crisis.  It is helpful to create a process for communicating cloud outages to all the admins and have a mechanism for routing support cases to all the admins whose help will be needed to resolve a problem. Otherwise, cases will slip through the cracks or be assigned to people who do not have sufficient rights to resolve them.

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