IT has never been easier -- or harder

Beneath all the virtualization, automation, and plush Web GUIs lurk obscenely complex puzzles to solve

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Then there are peculiar problems like the one Mina Naguib recently encountered. I happened upon this write-up last week and consider it to be a perfect example of a highly skilled admin discovering and rectifying a problem that by all reasonable understanding shouldn't exist. Logical or not, troubleshooting the impossible seems to navigate all the same stages as grief.

  1. Denial. A highly intermittent problem that's difficult to reproduce, involving one of the Internet's most stable and reliable protocols. It simply shouldn't be happening.
  2. Anger. After exhausting all reasonable troubleshooting steps, the problem persists. Frustration is an understatement.
  3. Bargaining. Even the most seasoned IT ninja has fleeting thoughts of trading something to make the problem go away. It usually involves promises of spending more time implementing monitoring and consistency checking if the fix would just appear out of thin air.
  4. Depression. This doesn't necessarily affect the problem solver, but I've seen many cases where it almost immediately affects management and others on the periphery of the issue. They're not the ones with their heads down working through the roadblock. They're on the sidelines, losing hope that the problem will ever be fixed. Their sky is falling.
  5. Acceptance. This is the one stage where the paths of IT problem solving and grief diverge. There's no acceptance of a problem in IT. It must be fixed -- one way or another. The quality and reliability of that fix may be in question, but there is no point at which you can just give up on a major blocking problem. It's not an option. It must work. The bits must flow.

In the case of Mina's bizarre TCP corruption issue, the problem was caused by a network provider several hops away, with no direct relationship to the affected parties. A router with buggy code or a blown interface was causing this unfathomable behavior, and it was only through remarkable diligence and a carefully tuned eye that it was brought to light.

This wasn't a problem to be fixed with a few mouse clicks or by running through a Web portal. This wasn't a problem a novice could uncover and fix. This was not easy.

The public face of IT might seem to be getting easier, more fluid, faster, and sleeker, but behind that paint and polish, the work of ages continues. The heavy lifting may now be more logical than physical, but the load is in fact weightier than ever.

This story, "IT has never been easier -- or harder," was originally published at Read more of Paul Venezia's The Deep End blog at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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