Perl's cross-platform compatibility is less of an advantage to sysadmins than you might think. Most useful Perl programs need to access files and file access conventions are quite different across Unix/Windows/Mac platforms. The author deals with such issues early along with the oddities of installing Perl on different platforms and the need for sysadmins to write clean, robust and secure programs. Recent Net exploits underline the last point.
The content is, though, far from theoretical. One of the first script examples shows how to recursively walk a file tree using Perl alone and then an even better way using Perl's File:Find module. Having created a filewalking script, Blank-Edelman then explains the various platform gotchas you need to consider when filewalking on different platforms because of differences in the way each file system works.
This relentless attention to the underpinnings of different operating systems is the real strength of Blank-Edelman's book. He writes as someone who not only does this stuff every day but likes getting his hands dirty, and--unlike the famous fictional sysadmin, BOFH--enjoys explaining how it all works.
His approach is especially valuable when dealing with the complexities of database management, e-mail and security. For example, in the latter section, to locate a misbehaving user, the author uses Perl to interrogate a Cisco Catalyst 5500 switch though the story following - a strange but amusing partial routing failure - hammers home Perl's flexibility and development speed.
Blank-Edelman assumes you already know Perl, but once you've read Perl for System Administrators you'll know enough about the glistening innards of network OSs to use it reliably and securely for network admininstration. It helps that it's also a great read. --Steve Patient
This book should be on the bookshelf, if open on the desk, of any cross-platform system administrator. -- Wayne Graham, Williamsburg Macromedia User's Group, Feb 2003