A summer in upgrade mode

Much like facilities and maintenance, CS/IT work is often best done when services are most lightly used. At a college, that’s in the summer. For that reason we spent May and June performing maintenance and upgrades.

Our biggest achievement is the near-complete rebuild of two of our computing clusters. They’re modest, and both are a few years old, but we gave one a complete OS upgrade and reconfigured the other with a new head node that will let us better use the systems we already have.

We’re running CentOS 7 on all nodes of the newly-upgraded cluster (up from CentOS 5!), and to configure it we’re implementing an instance of Ansible. It’s similar to the c3 tools we’ve previously run on our three clusters, but it’s vastly more powerful. We’re all learning its vocabulary and some new syntactical sugar, but it’s already paying returns in efficiency of time and labor.

In addition to those upgrades:

  • We’ve racked and de-racked some servers, a task largely implemented by the students who should get the experience.
  • Several bits of software that were long overdue for updates finally got attention.
  • We’re ready to upgrade to a new server to host our firewall, also long overdue.

Other than sysadmin work, I lent support to the Icelandic field studies group while they were on-site for a few weeks. Development on Field Day tends to slow once the crew returns, but I found it quite enjoyable and fulfilling to build the app, so I hope to have the chance to continue developing it (alongside some other thickets of code I’ve wandered into).

Finally, to my great relief, an annual scheduled power outage didn’t induce downtime, let alone the hard crash of last year. That’s thanks to some fixes we made to hardware and software in the wake of the last incident, one I hope no one in this department ever repeats.

It’s a successful first half of the summer. I’ve been supervising all of it but we wouldn’t be half as far without the hard work of the summer admin students. I continue to be optimistic that we’re setting ourselves up for some interesting things in the next academic year.