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infrastructure



kief  2006-08-26 12:03       

I've been much too quiet lately. I'm still hard at work putting together what I hope will be a very strong infrastructure for my company's application hosting operations, with about 15 servers for production, content management, and staging and testing.

One of the core components of this infrastructure is an OpenLDAP server, which I've been working on over the past week. Up until now it's been enough to have a couple of accounts which are created locally on all of the servers by puppet. I've got a chunk of disk space on a SAN which is shared across the machines, which is handy for having a common home area for key accounts I use to login and administer the machines, as well as the puppet templates and manifests.

kief  2006-07-19 06:17       

Tim O'Reilly, the boss of O'Reilly publishing and a key booster of the Web 2.0 meme, recently posted an article about operations.

One of the big ideas I have about Web 2.0 [is] that once we move to software as a service, everything we thought we knew about competitive advantage has to be rethought. Operations becomes the elephant in the room.

O'Reilly laments that most of the tools for deploying systems and applications on open source platforms (i.e. Linux) are not themselves open source. Luke Kaines and others have commented on the article with examples of open source deployment and operations management tools, including Puppet, and others I've mentioned for system configuration and network monitoring.

kief  2006-07-19 05:59       

This section has links and information about network monitoring tools. I've used Nagios a lot in the past 4 or 5 years, which is open source and pretty mature. It is mainly for detecting and reporting problems however, so it's useful to add something like Munin for tracking and graphing system resources and performance.

Another tool I'd like to try out for this is OpenNMS, which is written in Java, and includes the graphing as well as detection and reporting, and also auto-detects devices and services on a network.

kief  2006-05-31 19:16       

I've started tinkering with puppet for configuration management. It's a far more flexible and extensible tool than cfengine, so it looks like the best way to go.

It's main drawback is lack of maturity. The documentation is fair, there's a decent reference, but there are only two examples of configuration files that I've seen so far, and neither one is very complex. It's also fairly buggy, although the author is quick to respond when told about specific problems.

I'll most likely be using Puppet to build a J2EE infrastructure based on Red Hat. I'd like to be able to contribute bug fixes, but I'm not sure how many spare cycles I'll have, given that I don't know Ruby. But hopefully I can at least contribute some example files, and some manifests related to Tomcat and general J2EE web application deployments.

kief  2006-05-27 17:55       

There are a lot of things you can do to make sure that when disaster strikes, you can get back online. Even in environments where you don't have automatic failover, you can take some basic steps so that when you get the alert or the phone call, you can bring things back online.

Let's say you have a single server running a web application with a local database. However, you need to have a second server available. Maybe it's doing something else normally, maybe it's in a less than ideal location, like in your office at the end of a slower Net connection, but as long as you can fire up your application, repoint DNS, and be online, it'll do in a pinch.

kief  2006-05-24 20:25       

I've been working up a cfengine-based setup to manage a new server infrastructure. This will be my third cfengine-based infrastructure, so I should have learned enough to make a cleaner, tighter configuration. Unfortunately I'm still finding cfengine to be too damned awkward.

So, I'd like to put together a list of alternatives to cfengine. I'll add them to this page, and hopefully add on notes and reviews as I learn more. If you have experience with these or others, please add a comment.

  • Puppet seems to be an up and comer. It looks to be designed to be much more extensible than cfengine is. It also lets you make sure each host only sees its own configuration, which is one of my peeves about cfengine. It's my leading candidate at the moment.
kief  2006-05-14 11:15       

There are scads of DNS providers out there. Hosting providers almost always provide DNS service as well, but I prefer to have a separate provider, so it's easier to switch hosting.

My favorite DNS service is easyDNS. They have a pretty comprehensive service, and they now do .co.uk domains, although you can't use their web-based interface to do it. There are cheaper services, but Easy DNS are by no means a rip off. The UI is clean and easy to use, their service is rock-solid and fast. I also find them to be a straight-shooting type of company, they don't use dodgy practices to squeeze extra money out of you.

kief  2006-05-13 22:42       

Here are some of the hosting providers I've worked with.

DreamHost

DreamHost offers shared hosting accounts with an amazing amount of functionality for a very low price. Lots of virtual domains, mysql instances, and tons of extras. They also have dedicated servers, but they seem to be in flux. When I looked at them a while ago they had dedicated Debian servers for under $100 per month, but these are now "coming soon", and the pricing for dedicated RedHat servers (as opposed to VPS servers) aren't promising. So I'm not sure if their dedicated servers are as great a value as their shared hosting.

kief  2006-05-06 10:48       

I would call cfengine a configuration management tool. I just can't get into graphical and web-based tools for managing servers, I much prefer having a set of configuration files that I can check into version control. Once I've got a decent configuration set for an infrastructure, setting up, updating, or changing the role of a machine is a simple matter of tweaking the configuration files and running a command.

I find cfengine to be a bit awkward, it's configuration system suffers from being an academic research project. But so far I haven't found anything better.

kief  2006-05-06 10:47     

Here are some of the standard tools I use for managing multi-server hosting infrastructures.

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