Dispatches From The Geeks

News and Announcements from the MCS Systems Group

Dispatch 2008.1: Update (and Downtime Announcement)

Greetings, humans!I’m going to try my best to get these out on the order of once a month or so in order to keep everyone well informed of what’s going on with their environment. In this issue: a limited downtime announcement for some servers, a Zimbra outage announcement, an update on our mail server rollout, and reviving the Tips & Tricks talks.First up, a downtime announcement. We’ve got a few servers in the machine room we need to physically relocate to make room for some new equipment coming in. Doing so necessitates a short downtime to pull power, physically move the machines and get them back up. For each machine, the downtime should be brief, but to play it safe we’re going to call it a 2 hour window.The downtime will begin Monday, February 11 at 5:00PM and end at 7:00PM. Here’s what will be affected:

  • echo.mcs.anl.gov: This is our web proxy server. If this is the first time you’ve heard of this and are wondering why you might care, you can see instructions on using it at http://wiki.mcs.anl.gov/IT/index.php/Getting_by_without_a_VPN_client#Automatic_Proxy_Configuration. During the downtime, the proxy will not be available. We’ll do our best to keep this one to a minimum, as I know a number of you use this pretty extensively.
  • wiggum.mcs.anl.gov: This is a login machine used by the DSL.
  • usage-stats.globus.org: Globus usage data collection server.

One of our back-end servers is also getting moved, but that shouldn’t affect anyone reading this. As I said, the actual downtime should be fairly short, but we need to account for the unforeseen.Also, this weekend there’ll be a Zimbra outage while CIS migrates the server to its new, production hardware. The outage window is Saturday, February 9, 1:00PM until 5:00PM. Within a week or so, there will be another outage as we upgrade the server from Zimbra 4.5 to Zimbra 5.0. This is particularly exciting, as Zimbra 5.0 brings a number of wanted features, such as iCal syncing of shared calendars, Tasks/To-Dos, Briefcase (file repository), and a number of bug fixes. The web interface is much cleaner, works like a champ with Safari 3.0 (and the iPhone), and is highly configurable. I’ve been running Zimbra 5.0 at home since its release, and I’m extremely impressed with it.At the State of IT talk, I mentioned the new mail server. Our plan was to be using this in some fashion by end of January — obviously we’ve missed that mark a little, so I’ll instead share where we’re at and what the time line is looking like.For those who don’t yet know, the new mail server is the aforementioned Zimbra production service. This means seamless integration between Calendar and e-mail (no more wondering if you’re inviting the right e-mail address to your meetings, for example). As mentioned in the IT talk, if you only use mail through your mail client (like Thunderbird, Apple Mail, Eudora, etc), nothing will change except the host name you use in your mail configurations. Though the webmail interface is a significant improvement over the old one we’re using.Max has made significant progress in the migration tests. He’s taken on a particularly troublesome and unique user* whose mailboxes contain well over 100,000 messages as a good test case, and it’s been a largely trouble-free experience so far. This ‘worst-case’ scenario is leading to tweaks in our migration process.Here’s a rough overview of the migration process and a hopeful schedule:

  • Next week: continued migration testing, including migration of your procmail configurations, converting them into the new server’s sieve filtering method. (Once we’re production, users can manage their server-side filters and rules via the web interface.)
  • In a week: We’ll announce a website for users to set their new e-mail password. This will allow us to migrate most users to the new system without requiring an in-person visit or call to the help desk for a new password.
  • Rest of February: synchronization of mailboxes between existing mail server and new mail server.

Once we’re comfortable that we’ve got things running well, we’ll announce a switchover plan. Along with this, we’ll host a Town Hall style tips & tricks meeting in 221-A216 where you folks can see the new stuff in action, ask questions, and get some tips.These Tips & Tricks sessions and guru sessions are going to become a regular thing. In fact, expect an announcement soon on a session detailing how to use the new web server tools as we make our final push to migrate data from the old servers. We’ll also preview the new Group/Project pages. But I’m getting ahead of myself — stay tuned.And that, aside from putting out a few fires helping ALCF with some high-priority items, is what we’ve been doing with our time. Next Dispatch hitting in March, with announcements trickling in as necessary!Thanks for reading!*His name rhymes with… hmm… what rhymes with Craig?


Written by Craig Stacey

February 9, 2008 at 6:49 am

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