Unless you've been living under a rock for the past several
years, you have to have at least heard of "Game of
Thrones," the epic television series on HBO based on the even
more epic series of books in The Song of Ice and Fire series by
George R.R. Martin. The books tell of a mythic world, filled with
intrigue, betrayal, dragons, and a group of men who have sworn
their lives to guard the kingdoms of men against a threat from the
outlying lands. These men are known as the Night's Watch, and
there is more than a little similarity between them and the IT
Department in many major companies, or even the IT staff at smaller
If you've seen "Game of Thrones," tell me you
don't for a moment at least feel a sense of brotherhood with
the brothers of the Night's Watch. That you don't find
yourself rooting for them, pulling for them, hoping it all works
out okay for them. Now, think about them and how many parallels
they have with the typical IT shop, perhaps the one you first
worked with or even the one you have now.
The Wall is this massive edifice that has been around for longer
than you've been alive, was cobbled together with a combination
of ancient know-how, magic, and whatever was available at the time,
and in spite of itself seems to stand on its own and work (mostly)
in spite of the odds against it. There are times when you would
like nothing better than to tear it all down and rebuild it from
scratch, but you're so dependent upon it that that could never
happen. Oh, and if you know where they are, there are some pretty
significant holes in the system that smart folks can exploit. Sound
like any LAN you're familiar with?
Rangers, Builders, and Stewards are like unto your security
team, server team, and support desk team. Each has their own job,
and while they must rely upon one another, they seldom work with
one another unless something is wrong, and then often grudgingly.
Each has its alleged head that participates in leadership to some
degree. Some are liked, some tolerated, some hated. Ring any
They all walk around dressed in all black, carrying the tools of
their trades wherever they go. The newbies get the night duties,
and whether that's walking the wall in freezing winds or
patching servers in freezing datacenters, they are all cold and
miserable, while their leadership enjoys their nights and
There is a Lord Commander who is in charge of everything, kind
of like a Director or a CIO, and there's also a Maester who
actually does know everything that there is to know about the Wall
and all the people who man it, or the LAN and every server on
And what about all those living and not so much on the other
side of The Wall? The Free Folk do largely as they will, and with
whom you must contend with, on a daily basis. Sounds like users to
me. And don't get me started on the White Walkers and their
legions of wraiths. Super-powered undead with ancient magick
hell-bent on tearing down the wall and destroying everything it
protects, leading countless numbers of zombies who feel no pain,
need no rest, and will destroy you if you drop your guard for a
second...sounds a lot like hackers and script kiddies to me. What
If they'd admit women to their ranks, I'd bet you normal
people would be very hard-pressed indeed to tell the difference
between the Night's Watch and their own IT team.
And while the brothers of the Night's Watch have their own
oath that they must swear upon joining for life, we, the
Sysadmin's Watch, should have our own too. Kneel before your
new gods, or walk with me to a gods' wood to kneel before the
old gods, and take the oath with me!
Data gathers, and now my watch begins.
It shall not end until my downsizing (or I get a better
I shall take no lunchbreaks, join no user groups, skip
I shall wear no neckties and win no
I shall live and die at my console.
I am the patcher in the darkness. I am the admin of the
firewalls. I am the shield that guards the realm of my
I pledge my days and weekends to the LAN's Watch,
for this day and all the days to come.
Now, rise up and take your place beside your brothers and
sisters as we stand our watch. Pass the mead, and hey, who let that
big dog in?
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
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