Systems Administration for Cyborgs

Everyone these days is a systems administrator at some scale. While there has never been good formal training for systems administration, it’s no easier to learn how to administer systems today than it was ten or twenty years ago. Systems Administration for Cyborgs is a collection of essays that provide an introduction to various systems administration topics in the context of late 20th-early 21st century technological phenomena: cloud computing, database driven web applications, virtualization, Linux, and dev/ops.

Systems Administration for Cyborgs consists of several main sections: The rudiments and background which addresses fundamental skills, basic information, and problems in systems administration. Then, a collection of documents on scaling and availability address challenges and strategies for managing and developing architectures for systems that must provide mission critical services under significant loads. Finally, “Cyborg Administration” ends with a short section that addresses current trends and topics in systems administration. There is also a brief reference section.


Systems Administration for Cyborgs was originally written by Sam Kleinman as a Cyborg Institute project. Sam continues to maintain the text with help: to suggest changes or updates email <>, or publish a git branch. The git repository is available at and github.

The latest version of this manual is also available for download in ePub and PDF formats:

Table of Contents

Rudiments and Background

Read Fundamental Systems Administration Tools and Skills if you are new to systems administration, or want an overview of “Cyborg Administration’s” approach to operations and systems work. Because the examples in Systems Administration for Cyborgs revolve around Unix systems, and because Unix systems inform the practice of contemporary systems administration, Unix Fundamentals introduces Unix-like systems, if you’re unfamiliar with the lower level features, operations, and philosophy of these systems.

Finally the Documentation is the Most Valuable Thing You Do chapter outlines the importance of documentation in the practice of systems administration, and provides an introduction to the process and requirements for writing and suppurating good technical documentation.

Scaling and Availability

The documents in this section address common problems and issues in systems administration. While the focus of these chapters is on basic systems technology and problem domains, these sections focus on problems related to administering systems on a larger and more robust scale. Most of the significant challenges in systems administration revolve around managing larger multi-component systems.

In this context, all administrators need to be familiar with web services and databases, even if they’re not directly administering websites and databases. At the same time, the “High(er) Availability Is a Hoax” document introduces the basic principals of how to build and architect robust systems with very high “up time” percentages.

Finally, If you work with systems you should be familiar with monitoring and backups, as all “production” quality deployments require some sort of monitoring and backup “story.”


Use the “A Glossary for Cyborg Systems Administrators” as reference of key terms and ideas throughout Systems Administration for Cyborgs, and the index if you’re looking for a coverage of a specific topic or instance. Future revisions of Systems Administration for Cyborgs may also include additional resources in the reference section, including tested procedures and tutorials for common tasks and configurations. See “Maintenance of Systems Administration for Cyborgs” for more information.

Cyborg Systems

Table Of Contents


Cyborg Institute is a collection of free software/open source projects and texts that address technological issues from a cyborg/humanist perspective.