BSDCan2013 - Final

BSDCan 2013
The Technical BSD Conference

Dwayne Hart
Day Talks - Day 2 - 2013-05-18
Room MRT 256
Start time 15:00
Duration 01:00
ID 411
Track System Administration
Language used for presentation English

Tales from the North

System Administration of a Geographically Disperse Network

Over five years ago I joined a Northern Internet Service Provider (ISP) in Yellowknife, NWT, Canada providing high-speed internet, email, website hosting, and other specialized network services to approximately 50 communities located within the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Our satellite headend was located in Ottawa.

Originally, each site systems (known as earth stations) ran FreeBSD 5.2.1, but, we could not run the same version of FreeBSD on newer hardware. Thus, we started using FreeBSD 6.2. Different sites running different versions of the FreeBSD operating system created many headaches when debugging software issues for a given service and while migrating services within a community from one server to another. Also, due to a lack of foresight, a central repository was not implemented and thus with the use of the newer version of FreeBSD the diverse software stack versions were not the same.

To solve the software stack issue we implemented FreeBSD 5.2.1 instances within the FreeBSD jail framework before jailutils and the Warden application from PC-BSD. Custom scripts were created to launch and terminate various jail instances. However, this still caused issues because the system tools used in diagnostics on the host system were inconsistent across the various sites. It was my job to develop a strategy to update the base operating systems on all of our systems located across the entire network. To do this I relied heavily on my past experience of administering and updating Diskless Gentoo Linux instances at MUN and reading the FreeBSD Handbook. I took this task one step further and created a custom FreeBSD ISO based off of FreeBSD RELEASE coupled with SYSLINUX’s PXELINUX framework. I was able to install the custom OS from a known stable state.

I would like to present this material to the BSDCan attendees in order to share my experience with others and to show that you can accomplish the same task without spending a large amount of money on proprietary software.