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 ones.
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 bells?
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 weekends.
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 it.
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 about you?
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 offer.)
I shall take no lunchbreaks, join no user groups, skip no patches.
I shall wear no neckties and win no bonuses.
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 systems.
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?