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Analytical Network and System Administration: Managing Human-Computer Systems Hardcover – April 23, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0470861004 ISBN-10: 0470861002 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

"?a landmark book in the field of network and system administration. For the first time, in one place, one can study the components of network and system administration as an evolving and emerging discipline and science, rather than a set of recipes, practices, or principles." From the Foreword by Dr Alva Couch, Tufts University, USA

"Mark Burgess' new book brings an analytical, scientific approach to bear on the general subject of systems and network administration. This original perspective opens up a wealth of ideas and possibilities which will be of interest to both the researcher and advanced practitioner in systems administration." Professor Paul Anderson, University of Edinburgh, UK

Network and systems administration usually refers to the skill of keeping computers and networks running properly. But in truth, the skill needed is that of managing complexity - to save time performing common system administration tasks, to allow safe use of untrained and trained help in maintaining mission-critical systems and to enable efficient centralized network administration.

Mark Burgess describes the science behind these complex systems, independent of the operating systems they work on. Rather than viewing the subject traditionally as a set of recipes for success or communications technologies for monitoring, Analytical Network and System Administration:

  • provides models and theoretical tools for analysing the resources, efficiency and security of human-computer systems.
  • gives advice and guidance on how to determine optimal policies for system administration.
  • employs probabilistic rather than Boolean methods.
  • illustrates key points with examples and exercises.
The essence of this book concedes the complexity of human-computer systems and urges readers to make the best of it. Although it tackles many complicated issues, the book offers a lightweight overview, suitable for graduate students and researchers in Networking and Computer Science. Its unique approach to an old problem will also appeal to practicing system managers and administrators.

"An unusual book about system administration in that it describes the theory which relates the components - computers and networks to the users and administrators. It is the only book I know that covers the 'science' underpinning systems administration." Professor Morris Sloman, Imperial College London, UK


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 382 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (April 23, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470861002
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470861004
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,237,345 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mark Burgess is a writer with many interests. His books span from fiction to hard science, and he actively writes philosphically in his blog about all aspects of modern information culture. He is an active public speaker on the international conference circuit, and is engaged in promoting science to a wide audience.

He is the Founder and original author of CFEngine. He was senior lecturer and then appointed full professor of Network and System Administration at Oslo University College from 1994-2011. He was the first professor with this title, and is largely responsible for defining the field. Mark Burgess obtained a PhD in Theoretical Physics at Newcastle University, for which he received the Runcorn Prize.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Charles T. Betz on May 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Analytical Network and Systems Administration presents a tour de force examination of systems management through the eyes of a scientist.

Burgess (who wrote cfengine) got his Ph.D. in theoretical physics and developed a keen interest in applying deep and rigorous analytical methods to the problems of the IT systems he was tasked with administering. His landmark work can be summarized in this provocative quote: "The field of system administration meets an unusual challenge in computer science: that of approximation. Modern computing systems are too complicated to be understood in exact terms."

This, of course, runs counter to the deeply held worldviews of many IT professionals, who are steeped in the deterministic, axiomatic aspects of computing. But just as cellular automata generate complex behavior from simple rule sets, so must IT systems be understood as complex entities. Burgess weaves a masterful narrative starting with fundamentals of the scientific method (just enough for his purposes) and takes the reader through a variety of interesting dimensions: systems, sets, graphical models, fundamental examinations of concepts such as change, information, and stability, and much more.

The book is characterized as based on "undergraduate math" but we're talking at least the first three years of an engineering curriculum, and I have to admit I found some of the material required more effort than I was willing or able to devote. But whenever I found myself starting to wonder if Burgess' coverage was too "theoretical," I was able to think of practical applications based on my own experience. Burgess liberally sprinkles the abstract discussions with such real world examples.
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