Speaker Tom Limoncelli
Time 2009-01-21 09:30
Conference LCA2009

Plenty is more common then we think.

  • compassion
  • fairness
  • love

spending/paying vs giving/sharing.

Putlatch != Potluck but similar concepts.

time is finite

scarcity is scarce

  • System administrators defined by scarcity.
  • CPU
    • Scarcity: Need to ensure no one person uses too much.
    • Plenty: Now everyone has their CPU, and not an issue.
  • Servers.
    • Scarcity: were expensive. Required OS license. Power was free.
    • Plenty: Now cheap. FOSS makes software cheap. Power main cost.
  • Storage:
    • Scarcity: 1990 $700 / 70 Meg
    • Plenty: RAID, free web drives, etc.
  • LANS:
    • Scarcity: 10M shard segments
    • Plenty: Switched GigE to desktop
  • Helpdesks
    • Scarcity: Don’t have time to be nice.
    • Plenty: Can hire friendly people. Encourage people to visit. Can schedule time with help desk person just to talk about issues.

Hospital time sharing expensive medical resources. Smaller clinics, specialized services, becoming more common. We can do a lot more with more data.

Energy. More oil we need, the more the prices go up. Solar power, the more we need, the more mass production reduces prices.

TV. Some person has to decide what shows to broadcast at prime time. Gatekeeper.

Gatekeepers becoming more and more obsolete by Internet, and scarce resources becoming plenty.

We want curators, not gatekeepers.

We want choice.

Gatekeepers worried about the future of their jobs.

  • Product space is bigger then gatekeepers want you to know
  • Resist the Internet rather then embracing it.
  • 13 hours uploaded to Youtube every minute. Not possible to have a Gatekeeper.

Gatekeepers are everywhere:

  • proprietary software vendors. Which features should we implement.
  • manufacturers. What products should we use our limited resources to make?


  • Free/Open source software.
  • 3D printers. Fabricators. Rapid prototypers. Eventually 3d printer will be able to print itself.

Gatekeepers fear losing their power. How will people cope without us to tell them how to think?

Fallacy: IT can provide everything the user needs.
Reality: Users work around us more then we think. Never as secure as it could be.

The IT department doesn’t choose the search engine.

Things that were scarce are now commodities (plenty):

  • Email services
  • Document storage and backups
  • IM/Chat systems
  • Hardware Inventory, Distribution & repair.

Written policies, written proceures

  • consistency, across locations and different people
  • correctness, even when delagated
  • demystifies our profession


  • People feel safe when they have control and give consent.
  • AUP - Acceptable Use Policies.
  • SLA - Service Level Agreements - Our service level we will provide.
  • Needs to be heard and understood. Needs respect for each other and rules.
  • I am not arguing for increased budget, but my users are; hence we are working as a team.


  • Should be no surprises.
  • Less firefighting. Good planning. Prevent potential disasters.
  • Incremental improvement. Not chaos.


  1. Written policies. SLA and AUP. Scope of support. Who? What? Where? When? What is an emergency? How do they get help?
  2. Help request / ticket system / next budget wiki
  3. Checklists for procedures. Possibly on a wiki.
  4. Well defined project priorities. What tasks have priorities? Users should be able to see priorities.
  5. Monitor utilization - no surprise scarcity. How long does it take to download front page?

What is an emergency? If it is not well defined, then every request will be an emergency. If defined, Boss can deal with any disputes involving interpreting the rules as to what is an emergency.

Management should encourage exceeding SLAs, but not overexceed SLA.


We develop capacity to live with pain. We forget what normal is like.

Need to communicate. Not assume. Need trust, safety, and stability for this communication to occur.

OS. Crashes every now and again. People live with it. It is “normal”. How things are. People don’t even realize this is a problem, it is just “normal”.

Should users have root rights to everything? Difference between policies and procedures. Policies are for users, procedures are for administrator use only. e.g. you don’t want to publish procedure for changing raid disk to users. They might try and do that. Top of procedure should list who should be following procedure.

What if policies are written and not inforced? eg. if everything goes to vice president to get an exception. No body takes policy seriously.

What if policies are not written? Compare cost of extra work required because there is no policy written.


  • set priorities.
  • set budget accordingly.
  • priorties, at management level, is tasks that won’t get done. Different to priorities at technical level (order in which to do tasks).