What is the difference between devops and system administrator?

Devops and sysadmins: they have many common tasks but there are also vital differences that we should always be aware of.

Devops and sysadmins: They have many common tasks but there are also vital differences that we should always be aware of.

Devops vs. system administrator: what is the difference? They are similar, but different. Do you remember the last time a system administrator came up with the claim that he can do everything a devops guy can do? If you do, then welcome to the part where almost everyone is confused and none is.

In this article, we will go forward and discuss the differences between a devops and system administrator. We will try to explain it from the historical viewpoint and also try to understand them as per their job roles.

The job market for devops and system administrators is drastically changing. Current generation of engineers know this and are always improving their skills like the ones from LiveEdu that share their knowledge online with peers and work on projects collaboratively.

However, before we get started, it is important to understand each of the terms.

What is “devops”?

According to Wikipedia, devops is defined as below.

“Devops is a software development and delivery process that emphasizes communication and collaboration between product management, software development, and operations professionals. It seeks to automate the process of software integration, testing, deployment and infrastructure changes by establishing a culture and environment where building, testing, and releasing software can happen rapidly, frequently, and more.”

Check out Flexin1981 work on his devops project. Simple, isn’t it?

What is a “system administrator”?

“A system administrator, or sysadmin, is a person who is responsible for the upkeep, configuration, and reliable operation of computer systems; especially multi-user computers, such as servers.”

A clear difference

As you can see, there is a clear difference between the two. However, there is still too much confusion among IT specialists and HR managers. The term “devops" has been abused multiple times by companies to get things done. There are also many companies and startups that think devops guys can do everything and will solve their problems once hired.

Devops professionals should not be responsible for clearing all the mess that a company have made up to that point.

History behind the devops term misuse

A decade ago, there were separate roles such as testers, sysadmins, developers, database administrators, and so on. It worked at that time as no one complained. However, as time passed, the market changed and cloud computing arrived.

With the inception of the cloud, a lot of things started to get automated, especially the ones that were done by a sysadmin. It also took away most of the work done by network engineers and database administrator.

With most of the work for the sysadmins becoming automated, they were asked to support the developers to become more effective and also help the end users. This type of work slowly gave birth to “devops.” However, devops’ tasks are not limited to what sysadmins do.

You can read more about the history from MightBigMinus on Reddit where he explains every single bit of change that happened to the profession. It is a simple perspective offered by the Reddit user which makes sense.

In the end, devops’ aim is to make every section of the IT company collaborative in nature. According to Jeff Knup, devops is meant to denote a close collaboration and cross-pollination between what were previously purely development roles, purely operations roles, and purely QA roles.

Devops vs. system administration

Until now, it should be clear that the two roles are different in nature. There are many tasks that are common to both devops and a sysadmin, however, there are also vital differences that we should always be aware of. For example:

  1. Devops' job is to collaborate on a high-level and ensure synergy in each section of the company. A sysadmin guy is more focused on configuring, keeping up and maintaining servers and computer systems.
  2. Devops guys are known for their experience working on a product from end-to-end while sysadmins are only confined to smaller scope and responsibility.
  3. Devops guys can do everything a sysadmin does, but a sysadmin cannot do everything a devops guy does.

That’s it. If you think there is more that needs to be added, don’t forget to look me up below and let me know.

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?