It’s SysAdmin Appreciation Day and we’re celebrating by crowning our 2011 SysAdmin of the Year and worthy winners in six other categories. The nominations poured in and we challenged a talented panel of OpenDNS engineers and SysAdmins to determine the winners. After an arduous deliberation process (involving multiple energy drinks and trips to the snack room) our team chose John Cannon, lone IT pro for a rapidly expanding group of BMW and Mercedes dealerships, as the 2011 SysAdmin of the Year! John was nominated for the Neat Freak category but his before and after pictures told of a patient and organized SysAdmin simultaneously managing IT for five locations while implementing a massive and challenging overhaul.

John joins an elite group of winners who raised the bar for each of the categories below:

Best Disaster Response Award
After Hurricane Ike struck, Hart Energy’s servers were trapped in an area without power and nearly impossible to access through the debris and downed power lines. Mark Chiles wins the Disaster Response Award for his heroic actions to save the servers, including blindly descending ten flights of stairs in pitch-black darkness and using his own body to save a server after nearly falling down the staircase!

Shoestring Budget Award
James Gamble and Brian Albury might work at a children’s museum but when it comes to saving money, they’re not kidding around. They receive this year’s Shoestring Budget Award for their uncompromising commitment to saving the non-profit museum hundreds of thousands of dollars each year by repurposing old machines, using open source and free software, and standardizing company practices, all while leveraging a limited budget that is funded by grants and donations.

Flying Solo Award
Eric Szymczyk is a one-man IT show at a large public relations firm in Boston. Eric spent two highly-caffeinated days moving his entire firm into new offices, including the deployment of new laptops for all employees! He singlehandedly moved the servers, racks, cables, phone system, scanners, printers and more while somehow managing to save the company thousands in the process. We’re in awe of this work, but we still think he humbly tells it best: “I have been a light bulb replacer, a surge protector switcher-on guy, a virus fixer, a heavy box delivery man, a server installer, an iPhone troubleshooter, a network architect and more… my name is Eric, I am IT, and I fly solo.”

Large-Scale Deployment Award
Ryan Pierce was the stand-out winner for the large-scale deployment award because faced the difficult challenge of implementing a system-wide upgrade across dozens of healthcare facilities throughout California. He did so with limited support resources, an executive team that didn’t see value in an IT department, and the responsibility of simultaneously handling all IT tickets for the organization! Now, he boasts the trust and support of the executive team, HIPAA compliance, and the successful completion of a $1.5M upgrade.

DevOps Award
This was an easy one. Elite SysAdmin and engineer Richard Crowley cut his teeth at OpenDNS, where he learned a massive amount about operations and systems. We couldn’t be more proud of his new tool and venture, blueprint, and Richard couldn’t be more deserving of this award. Blueprint allows users to reverse-engineer running servers, output a blueprint, and recreate the server. The tool has already helped numerous SysAdmins quickly take existing machines and add them to automation frameworks. Plus, it’s completely open source, free, and available at, where more than 800 people are following its progress. A perfect fit for the DevOps award.

Neat Freak Award
If this year’s nominations are any indication of industry standards, it appears that the freakishly neat are multiplying! From the countless nominations we received there was one clear standout. Thanks to David Korté’s painstaking network diagramming, his server racks look like a work of art.

Our amazing list of winners will receive a bounty of gifts fit for a SysAdmin. Their prize package includes caffeinated treats from ThinkGeek, OpenDNS swag, and perhaps most importantly, bragging rights to their friends and colleagues.

Thank you to everyone who entered and raised the bar for the 2011 OpenDNS SysAdmin Awards.

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