How big is your meat cloud? The golden number for servers

Just went through a recent thread on Slashdot discussing “how many admins per user computer” or how many desktops per admin to be more specific. While the client desktop subject is totally uninteresting, I found in the comment noise a few interesting tidbits about the meat cloud size in different server environments.

On the low non-automated end there were figures such as “1 admin per 70 Linux boxes or 30 Windows machines” (are Windows servers really twice as dificult to manage than Linux servers?) – confirmed by another commenter working for a Government facility. Of course, it depends on how many different hardware brands and software services you have to manage…

Another allegedly 12-year experienced sysadmin commented that the larger the organization, the bigger the ratio. Going from 50 server per sysadmin on small organizations to 250 on corporations (but his company revenue “definitions” are a bit weird). An insightful comment mentions Facebook’s Jeff Rotschild according to which Facebook has roughly 130 servers per admin or (interesting metric) 1 million or more users per engineer.

Of course in specific cases this number can go way higher. Especially when you have to deal with quasi-identical hardware and software configurations running in a very large cluster. On the extreme scale there’s the Microsoft container data center in Chicago which supposedly has a total of 30 employees supporting some 300,000 servers. That’s 10,000 servers/employee! At this point I suspect they basically only change faulty hardware and wire new capacity when needed, everything else should be fully automated.

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