Google Migration Post-mortem

OSU administration recently approached the OSL asking us to help migrate their email archives to Google. Through contacts with other local universities that had made the switch recently, we discovered that Portland State University had written and published an open source Python app to manage the process. In the name of expedience, we decided to fork that project and use that as our base from which to extend.

Having had time to reflect, I’d like to share a few lessons from the experience:

1. Enterprise means customized. All software comes bundled with biases and assumptions; small teams may be better off adapting their organization to fit those assumptions, but there exists a threshold beyond which it is easier to adjust software to fit the organization's assumptions instead. Despite forking a completed application, we found ourselves making several customizations and undoing several assumptions made by upstream developers.

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Vim Trick FTW!

Recently, I learned a useful Vim trick. One of our hosted clients has a Dokuwiki instance that we help manage, and they were having problems with a lot of spam user accounts being created. We added a CAPCHA to the wiki to make it less convenient for new spammers to join, but there were a lot of bad accounts already existing. By "a lot," I mean there were 112,808 accounts listed in users.auth.php, and only about a dozen real project personnel using the wiki on a regular basis.

To clean it out, we decided the best course of action would be deleting every account except those with admin privileges, because most of the real humans were in the admin group and those who weren't could get the project leader to re-add their accounts. The benefit of clearing out a hundred thousand spammers would, in this case, outweigh the inconvenience of manually recreating a couple of real accounts.

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Protein Geometry - What the Heck is That?

When I bumped into my biochemistry professor, Dr. Kevin Ahern, on campus a few months ago, I had the pleasure of explaining how I actually get to use what I learned in his class. And at the Open Source Lab of all places. At the lab, I’ve had the opportunity to work on an open source project called the Protein Geometry Database (PGD), and my coursework as a food science major with fermentation science option -- specifically, that course in biochemistry -- has proven unexpectedly helpful when working on the PGD.

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OpenStack on OpenPOWER

Openstack has been growing in popularity over the past few years and recently we’ve started to look into it further here at the OSL. We plan to continue to use Ganeti for our high-available IaaS needs, however we’re researching ways to integrate Openstack at the lab as well. While Ganeti provides a solid, stable and simple platform for general IaaS needs, Openstack provides better support for elastic and dynamic needs. We feel that using both platforms gives the best of both worlds, because they each fill a specific niche in a cloud environment.

Earlier this year we teamed up with IBM to work on deploying Openstack on the OpenPOWER architecture with the goal of expanding our Supercell infrastructure beyond the x86 architecture. Thanks to the hard work by both the IBM and OSUOSL team, we’ve been able to deploy Openstack on four IBM OpenPOWER machines which support KVM and little endian.

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Openstack's Horizon

The first tech post is by Chance Zibolski, a community system administrator and project lead of Ganeti Web Manager, a Web administration panel that allows administrators and clients access to administer and use Google’s open source cloud infrastructure.

Recently the OSU Open Source Lab has been experimenting with different technologies, in particular Openstack. We already use Ganeti as our production virtual machine and cluster management system and have written a web front end called Ganeti Web Manager. The whole purpose of the web manager is to allow us to easily create new virtual machines for internal purposes and to provide our customers with cheap, redundant VMs. Recently, the OSL released Ganeti Web Manager 0.10.2 and we’re getting close to finishing version 0.11. With this release, we’ve begun to discuss the future of Ganeti Web Manager and where we should be taking it. We’ve decided to eventually rewrite it. As the project lead of Ganeti Web Manager, it’s been my job to explore what tools and libraries we may want to use for new versions of the project.

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DevOps Bootcamp extends OSL reach

Sometimes, it’s hard to be popular. The increasing popularity of open source means that there are always more students interested in the Open Source Lab than we have the ability to hire and mentor. In order to increase the lab’s reach and educate more people about FOSS, the lab created a new program, DevOps Bootcamp. Spearheaded by Emily Dunham, a student system administrator, and modeled after Portland State University’s Braindump, this program will allow more people from outside of the OSL to learn valuable FOSS skills.

The unique DevOps Bootcamp curriculum focuses on both software development and systems administration. Designed to be accessible to complete beginners, the course aims to take potential open source contributors from no knowledge to a solid grasp of the basics in a year. The informal class covers the following key areas: linux basics, basic system administration, basic FOSS development methodologies, base infrastructure services for any organization (DNS, Email, etc), and building a simulated infrastructure for a company from top to bottom.

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