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Saved by macagua
on December 13, 2010 at 1:02:46 pm

We put together a hosting service at WebLion which focuses on reliability, unattended updates, and customer separation. About 16 different departmental deployments (sometimes consisting of several Plone sites) each dwell on their own VMWare ESX VMs. That of course implies that each has its own Zope instance, which we wanted so each could have its own choice of products.


We manage the servers with Debian's package management tools (aptitude) and about 2 dozen custom packages, including a slight fork of Debian's excellent Plone 3.1 package. This enables us to have different software on each server if we need it, and we can even cede root on certain ones. The local administrator gets friendly prompts whenever his or her configuration changes conflict with ours, in typical aptitude style.


When we need to update something, we edit a package, and it progresses through a very Debian-style 3-tier QA process before finally hitting the "stable" repository and getting pulled onto the servers in the wee hours of the morning. This eliminates any dependence on outside servers like PyPI, whose downtime is outside our control. We also have an on-campus Debian mirror, so security updates to OS packages are fast and reliable. (Even if some of our repositories did go down, aptitude will always leave things in a safe state, unlike buildout, which I'd never trust to run unattended.)


Monitoring is provided by Zenoss and a custom version of the ZNagios product, which looks at things like Zope memory use and error count. We have thresholds set for disk, memory, CPU use, and SSL cert expirations and have a wee-hours restart rigged for when Zope has leaked too much RAM. (We also have a "holy crap" restart that can fire off even in the middle of the day if the box is swapping itself into oblivion.)


If you want to try out our setup, you can do it on your own hardware. Just follow the instructions at https://weblion.psu.edu/trac/weblion/wiki/BootstrapServers, and please pardon the few Penn State-specific things, which should be easy to weed out.


I'd also welcome collaborators. We have several outside consultants using our distro but few contributing patches. All the source is available at https://weblion.psu.edu/trac/weblion/browser/weblion/hosting/packages.


More about our setup is available in presentation form at http://www.slideshare.net/ErikRose/weblion-hosting-leveraging-laziness-impatience-and-hubris.


Hope this helps!

Erik Rose


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