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Sex lies and queues: Confessions of an HPC sysadmin
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Sex lies and queues: Confessions of an HPC sysadmin

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System administration is tough. HPC system administration is tougher. Most of the time you have to juggle computing, storage, networks, software and code in order to get the performance required (of …

System administration is tough. HPC system administration is tougher. Most of the time you have to juggle computing, storage, networks, software and code in order to get the performance required (of course with 100% availability & security). Do you have an screwdriver and some chew gum?.

Technology is only a leg of the tripod. You have to deal with users (who always want more), bosses (who always want to pay less) and consultants (who always want your money). People have to be sheph...sorry, managed properly.

And don't forget that all the big changes that you make to your HPC infrastructure can (and should) be treated as projects. Although project management can be hell, well managed can be also the key to heaven (or at least to some inner zen-like peace).

I've been managing a midsized HPC cluster for more than 10 years, and I'd like to give back some tips and tricks learned (most of the time, by trial/error or utmost failure) to make this challenging task lighter. The tips will be 50%/50% split between technology and management, and black humour will be all around.

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  • 1. Sex, lies and queues Confessions of an HPC sysadmin
  • 2. Antonio Sanz I3A - IT Manager 10+ years as a sysadmin ansanz@unizar.es @antoniosanzalc
  • 3. Some names have been changed in this book to protect the identity of computers, users, and suspected human beings
  • 4. Based on true stories.
  • 5. 1800+ cores 150+ servers 150Tb storage 10Gb network 300+ users HPC Staff : 2 techs
  • 6. 1. What is an HPC sysadmin ?
  • 7. A sysadmin makes things run smoothly
  • 8. An HPC sysadmin is a sysadmin plus (caffeine)
  • 9. With great power comes great responsibility
  • 10. We work wonders… Ask her about miracles
  • 11. HPC Sysadmin is a shitty job
  • 12. It’s something between this …
  • 13. … and this
  • 14. An HPC sysadmin is a Happiness Manager
  • 15. 2. Managing systems
  • 16. Tidy up your datacenter 17
  • 17. Prioritize your tasks
  • 18. Plan everything in advance
  • 19. Things eventually fail. Live with it
  • 20. Monitor everything
  • 21. Get remote (and secure) access
  • 22. Do backups
  • 23. Have a sound backup strategy
  • 24. If you lose data, not even Chuck will protect you
  • 25. Make your systems uniform
  • 26. Have spares onsite
  • 27. Virtualize as much as you can
  • 28. You can’t have enough automation
  • 29. Document everything
  • 30. Don’t make major changes on Friday
  • 31. Do extreme sysadmin
  • 32. 3. Managing people
  • 33. Managing users
  • 34. Users eat resources like marabunta
  • 35. Users always lie
  • 36. Learn how to translate user/sysadmin
  • 37. Should I give the user what they want or what they need?
  • 38. Deploy a ticketing system
  • 39. Educate your users
  • 40. Get a FAQ and tell users to RTFM
  • 41. Learn to say NO. Learn to say NO.
  • 42. Give solutions, not excuses
  • 43. Managing bosses
  • 44. Know your boss
  • 45. Learn how to translate boss/sysadmin
  • 46. Ask for email / signed docs
  • 47. Brown deactivation tactics
  • 48. Manage consultants
  • 49. Assess their expertise and attitude
  • 50. Zero tolerance tactic
  • 51. Manage yourself Manage yourself
  • 52. Use Zen. BOFHzen, actually.
  • 53. Never act in anger
  • 54. Be nice
  • 55. 4. Managing projects
  • 56. Manage expectations
  • 57. You get what you pay for
  • 58. Think long term
  • 59. Learn to say NO. Again.
  • 60. Don’t fix what ain’t broke
  • 61. Beware of ultra shiny & new stuff
  • 62. Make everything scalable
  • 63. Give yourself broad margins
  • 64. Don’t tie yourself to a vendor
  • 65. They will have you by the balls Vendor Lock-In
  • 66. Don’t tie yourself to a vendor
  • 67. They will have you by the balls Vendor Lock-In
  • 68. Don’t tie yourself to a vendor
  • 69. Be nice to suppliers … to a limit
  • 70. 5. Wrapping it all up
  • 71. Learn !
  • 72. Plan a lot
  • 73. Be a people person
  • 74. Sex
  • 75. Lies
  • 76. http://slideshare.net/ansanz Antonio Sanz – ansanz@unizar.es / @antoniosanzalc