It Belongs To Everybody

You think that server in our data center is yours?

The CIO paid for it.

The logistics & purchasing team ordered it.

The data center team installed it.

The system administration team configured it and patch it.

You installed the application on it.

The monitoring guys watch it.

The security team scans it.

I think it’s safe to say it belongs to the whole organization, not you.

6 thoughts on “It Belongs To Everybody”

  1. The problem with that logic is simple. When it belongs to everybody, it can also belong to nobody. When a community shares a park, for example, everyone has an equally valid claim to it. But that doesn’t mean that everyone accepts the same amount of responsibility for maintaining that resource. Either the community pays someone to become a custodian, in which case that person will expend exactly the amount of effort they are compensated for, or civic-minded individuals accept a higher level of responsibility. That level of responsibility does not come without an individual sense of pride and ownership.

    To care for something, somebody must take ownership of it, even if they don’t ultimately have sole claim over it. This is why, for example, my company’s servers are my servers. Without a personal sense of ownership, a system administrator is just a custodian. Without that sense of ownership, how many system administrators would suffer long days and late night pages without overtime? Not well, I suspect.

  2. Ownership is the wrong term. It’s owned by the people who could sell it, ie the corporation / organization / share holders. Ownership doesn’t even enter into it.

    Responsibility is the key. Responsibility of the equipment and the services they provide. Responsibility of ensuring that the physical plant, the network, the servers, and the services all function correctly.

    And Bob is right, it’s a team effort in every step of the lifecycle. The organizational infrastructure doesn’t belong to any one person.

    @Benjamin – As you mentioned, the tragedy of the commons is only an issue when there is no custodian. I get the feeling that Bob was talking to someone who not only was a hired custodian, but felt like he owned the lawn and the cows.

    (In case no one knows what I’m talking about:

  3. Well, I take pride in my work, and I have a sense of ownership of my work which also drives my doing it well. However, the organization owns the machine, and it’s a team effort to admin it. So when someone on that team does something without telling the rest, and inconveniences the rest, a proper response is “Oh, crap, I’m sorry!” rather than “It’s my box, I can do what I want.”

    As for responsibility, it’s the job of the top of the organization to make sure people are responsible & accountable for their part of the teamwork.

  4. @Matt — yeah, I had a specific example in mind. But I do agree with @Benjamin that sometimes, because something doesn’t belong to someone things fall through the cracks. It’s important to find those things and assign them to someone, then. In my organization it’s usually the sysadmin team that gets them.

  5. I think that server in our data center is nowhere mine…

    The CIO paid for it.

    The logistics & purchasing team (known as me) ordered it.

    The data center team (known as me) installed it.

    The system administration team (known as me) configured it and patch it.

    I installed the application on it.

    The monitoring guys watch it and don’t see those little red crosses poping on the screens.

    The security team (known as me) scans it.

    And it’s the same for the other 160 servers owned by my company.

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