How many people to admin a Cyrus system?

Ian Eiloart iane at
Fri Nov 9 07:09:35 EST 2007

--On 8 November 2007 16:50:59 -0600 Gary Mills <mills at> 

> We have a moderate-sized Cyrus system for 30,000 students and 3000
> employees.  It's a critical service in the sense that thousands of
> people depend on it.  It has excellent performance, lots of capacity,
> and plans for expansion.  I'm the only one familiar enough with Cyrus
> and sendmail to maintain it, although this is not normally full time.
> I'm also the one who tracks down hard problems in Unix and does
> development in a number of other areas.  Other than our data
> management person, who supplies the LUNs for the e-mail store, I'm the
> one who manages the system.
> I'm also going to be 65 in two days, although I plan to stay around
> for a year or so.  My director will be replacing me, but I assume this
> will be with an entry-level person who will not have the ability to
> maintain the Cyrus system, at least initially.  Other people in my
> group do not have the skills or the available time to administer this
> system.  I'm trying to convince him to hire somebody with development
> and programming experience, but without much success so far.  How many
> and what sort of people does it take to maintain a system such as
> this?  I need a good argument for hiring a replacement for me.

We're using two people (me and my boss), but both with substantial other 
responsibilities. Both have skill sets similar to the one that you 
describe. We also have user support people who answer queries, but don't do 
any configuration. I was recruited as an entry-level person, but took main 
responsibility for our SMTP service within a couple of years.

If you have other Unix admins, with knowledge of email, then you could 
probably recruit at entry level, and get away with it if you provide an 
intensive training programme.

> My director seems interested in outsourcing our e-mail system, judging
> by the number of articles on outsourcing that he sends to me.  Google
> and Zimbra with a commercial contractor are the latest two.  Replacing
> a perfectly functioning e-mail system seems ludicrous to me, as does
> subjecting our users to a migration for no reason. I assume at least
> that he wants vendors to quote on a replacement system.  Perhaps once
> he sees the cost, he will change his mind.  I suppose it depends on
> whether the quote includes the real cost.  Does anyone here have
> experience in this area?  I know that CMU and other universities want
> to maintain their own e-mail systems.  What's the justification in
> these cases?

I don't know about costs. I do know that you could not outsource our email 
service without simplifying it a lot. For example, would your contractors 
be able to use your campus authentication mechanism? Would they be able to 
use your existing user support processes? Would you be able to introduce 
new services, or service enhancements? Would your user's privacy be 

Ian Eiloart
IT Services, University of Sussex

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