Being a sysadmin often means that you get thrown to the wolves. Rules, a predictable schedule, or even choice of an operating system is often out of your control. To be even a marginally effective sysadmin nowadays, you need to know it all, and we mean all the operating systems. From Linux, to Solaris, to OS X, to FreeBSD, it needs to be in your toolbelt. Although only time will tell, it does seem as if the proprietary operating systems, such as AIX and HP-UX, won't last forever, but they still are necessary to know for many people.
Fortunately, Python comes to the rescue yet again—we hope you are noticing a trend here—by offering a mature standard library that has just about anything a multi-OS systems administrator needs. Python's massive standard library has a module that deals with just about anything a sysadmin could want to do, from tarring up a directory, to comparing files and directories, to parsing config files. Python's maturity, coupled with its elegance and readability, is why it is the 800 pound gorilla of systems administration.
Many complex systems administration facilities, such as animation pipelines and data centers, are switching away from Perl to Python because it offers much more readable and elegant code. While Ruby is an interesting language that shares many of the positive features of Python, when one compares the standard library and maturity of the language, Ruby lacks in comparison to Python for a systems administration language.
Since this chapter is going to be a mixture of many different operating systems, we won't have time to explore any of them in great depth, but we will explore them enough to demonstrate how Python can act in as both a generic, cross-platform scripting language and a unique weapon for each operating system. Finally, there is a new "operating system" on the horizon, and it comes in the form of a data center. Some people refer to this new platform as Cloud Computing, and we will talk about Amazon's and Google's offerings.
Enough of the idle banter, something smells delicious in the kitchen...is that OS soup?
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