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What's the best way for a veteran Systems Administrator to get into an OpenStack career?

asked 2014-06-06 20:04:50 -0500

Brian Jarrett gravatar image

updated 2014-08-25 15:45:53 -0500

smaffulli gravatar image

I'm leaving a job as a Senior Systems/Network Administrator and wanting to work with OpenStack for my next job. I've been administering Linux and Windows servers for 15 years. I'm looking at training from Mirantis, the Linux Foundation, and RedHat. Also, Mirantis and RedHat have certifications available. At this point, I'm teaching myself, and have an OpenStack cluster that I installed in VirtualBox VMs on my laptop. I'd really appreciate it if some managers or recruiters would be willing to share what would be the most effective strategy for getting a job as an OpenStack administrator/engineer/architect. I'm willing to spend the money on training if it's worth the investment, but all of this is new enough that it's hard to find information on how useful training and certifications are. So for those of you already in the industry willing to share, what do I need to do to be a viable member of an OpenStack team?

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I have managed to push off our house closing to the end of the month, but if I do not have a job by the end of next week I will be another homeless veteran and my kids will be on the streets. We have nothing, will lose over $3,000 in earnest money, and our lease is ending. Openstack isn't working

spyderdyne gravatar imagespyderdyne ( 2017-03-15 13:40:24 -0500 )edit

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answered 2014-06-07 07:10:08 -0500

larsks gravatar image

updated 2014-08-25 08:49:17 -0500

I can't comment on the effectiveness of the training programs, never having tried them myself. They may be good introductions to OpenStack, but I think that if you're looking find work with OpenStack that the following three things will help you immensely:

  • Use OpenStack.

    Don't just install it. Make working with OpenStack a regular part of your life. You don't need to invest in hardware to do this: run Linux on your laptop and run OpenStack on that, and then use OpenStack whenever you need to boot a VM for something else (including...experimenting with OpenStack!).

  • Become active in the OpenStack community.

    Teach others. Write about your configuration. Write about problems that you encountered and how you solved them. Help out here on

  • Contribute to OpenStack.

    Help make OpenStack better. Contribute code or documentation to the project. Learn and use git and the review process.

By demonstrating that you are an active, contributing, and competent member of the community you will make yourself more attractive to potential employers than you would be otherwise. If I were a hiring manager (which I am not now but have been in the past), I would be more interested in this evidence than in any training certifications you might have.

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This is what helped me get into the field. I went from Sys Admin to OpenStack Operations. The best thing I could do was install OpenStack by hand over and over again, troubleshooting each install, then verifying services for production. Contributing here was also a great decision.

mpetason gravatar imagempetason ( 2014-06-07 09:00:12 -0500 )edit

Thank you both for your answers. I've joined several of the mailing lists and will get involved ASAP. mpetason, I'm wondering how long the transition took for you. I'm really needing to get into a new job soon, so would that change your answers in any way?

Brian Jarrett gravatar imageBrian Jarrett ( 2014-06-08 00:33:09 -0500 )edit

I really like this answer. When I was given similar advice by peers, almost everyone also suggested learning Python.

chyang247 gravatar imagechyang247 ( 2014-06-08 18:20:05 -0500 )edit

@Brian : Yes Learn Python. Learn how to read it, learn how to code a bit, and learn how to troubleshoot trace back messages. Python developers have a huge advantage over Sys admins in OpenStack due to the fact that they can look at the code and figure out how/why stuff is happening.

mpetason gravatar imagempetason ( 2014-08-22 10:42:02 -0500 )edit

answered 2014-08-25 12:35:38 -0500

So Brian I am going to give you the response that makes you competent AND helps you obtain new employment in this space, since it appears that is what you're after.

First off, trying to synergize your goals and then distill your response, it appears that you're going for the OpenStack Equivalent to a SharePoint Architect. Now, some will protest the comparison, but what I mean by this is that you are looking to develop what would commonly be considered Solution Engineer/Sr. Systems Engineer skills. In the SharePoint world as well as in firms who model their Architect Practice after IBM's Organizational Model, this would be considered a Technical Solutions Architect [or more commonly Systems Architect] or IT Architect I. Essentially, it is a Sr. Systems Engineer that has foundational architect training who can extend strategy, model a current and future state view, has the engineering skill to build/lead the build effort and can operate the solution as an administrator, focused on tweaking performance for up to the first 90 days. This will require some basic project management skills as well, which more than likely you have developed as apart of your 15 years of experience.

This actually a good thing because this [regardless of title] is level most often targeted. I can be a bit unfortunate because you will be challenged to fully develop expertise across all of those disciplines, and as a result, struggle to strengthen your skills across that breadth of domains. Still, this is your reality, and be aware that working for an enterprise will be different than working for a vendor, or consulting company, so you will have to modify your expectations and focus accordingly.

I mention all of the above as guidance for what I am about to recommend, which given what I have described, will not seem as much like overkill with that outlook as a background:

Pursue the RedHat Training & Certification. Mirantis seems to have better feedback from candidates about the rigor of the course, but keep in mind that many recruiters still don't know what they are really looking for, so they skew towards the familiar brands. Here's a link to a really inexpensive RHCSA-OpenStack Prep course : (

Puppet Fundamentals training would be a great option as the 2nd step.

When the CCC Professional Cloud Developer & Professional Cloud Solution Architect Courses become available next month ( ( It is vendor agnostic and covers pretty much all of the high level issues you would need to address that which is necessary to design a cloud infrastructure.

I would also encourage reviewing the AWS Certified Solution Architect training material as well. Much of the Architecture defined in OpenStack is based upon concepts borrowed from AWS. Additionally, many of the Cloud professionals you come in contact with have their ... (more)

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Asked: 2014-06-06 20:04:50 -0500

Seen: 1,338 times

Last updated: Aug 25 '14