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Old 09-05-2012, 03:57 AM   #1
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Is it necessary for a system admin to know any programming language?

Hello all,

I am working as a linux support and will be shortly donning the Jr system admin's role.One of my friend's suggested me to learn a programming language like python or perl.Is it really necessary? I am a beginner in bash scripting, is this not sufficient?

If it is so, then please advise me which one is better to learn and get started from a system admin's perspective and not as a programmer.

Old 09-05-2012, 04:05 AM   #2
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well python and perl are NOT programming languages, they are scripting languages, like bash is too. There is a significant difference as it's often extremely common to write scripts in scripting languages to do your job better. You may well be able to survive in just bash alone, but it's great to have multiple languages at your disposal. Sometimes I'll solve a problem in bash, sometimes in python. Sometimes I'll choose awk, another time tcl even. I *could* automate something use c if I wanted to, but it's pretty uncommon.

Both perl and python are easy to use and worth knowing, but I would suggest two main influences - firstly what the other guys you will work with already use, and secondly what operating system you use. I have done perl for a decade now, but picked up python a few years ago as I was working in a locked down environment using RHEL systems. Now RHEL uses python for a large number of system tools, and so by default has a LOT more libraries installed that Perl. So I could achieve what I wanted in python without needing to install countless additional packages and libraries (or code them myself) like I would have done in perl.
Old 09-05-2012, 04:07 AM   #3
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I would think that it depends on what systems you will be dealing with...

For example, the typical Linux system has lots of shell scripts, so knowing the shell language (eg BASH) is probably essential. There also could be applications written in just about any language---if you have to maintain those applications, you'll need to know their language.
Old 09-05-2012, 04:53 AM   #4
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I am working on debian OS. Just checked with one of my seniors and he suggested to go with python and will be helping me wherever needed.Can't wait to get started!!

Thanks for the suggestions.

Old 09-05-2012, 10:49 AM   #5
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Critical skill

To be a System Administrator you only need the job. To be a GREAT System Administrator you need to learn new ways to THINK!

Learning programming in a low level language encourages you to 'think into the machine' better than anyone ignorant of programming (or who programs and understands only high level OO languages).

Assembler, FORTRAN, Pascal, FORTH, and C seem to be the best for this purpose. COBOL or BASIC could cripple you for life if you encounter them first, but are good as secondary skills. They force you to organize and document in different ways, and can round out your mental skillset.

Once you have those programming and THINKING skills, you get more out of learning any other language including BASH, PERL, PYTHON, etc. In fact, with every language you learn better and faster as you add ways to consider problems and solutions.

OOP is an entire different way of considering data and processing, and can again revolutionize your thinking, but should follow and be based upon an ability to think into the machine. Since PERL does both procedural and OOP, it is a good way to start. (There is no real BAD way except JAVA.)


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