Thesis, job and life

The implementation of my thesis has been finished for about a week or so. Currently I’m spending my days writing the thesis text. This is going to be the hardest job of the whole project 😉

I’m probably the last person in my year to decide on a job but the decision has been made. Related to my thesis I’ll start as a researcher at the department of computer science of the KU Leuven working on a phd. The topic of my thesis is really interesting and I really enjoyed working on it and I got offered the change to work on it for a few more years. I’m really looking forward to it!

My girlfriend is also graduating and has found a job in Leuven too, so we are looking for an apartment in Leuven. Until now the search hasn’t been very successful 🙂

Configuration management with puppet

I know it has been very quit here and on eAccelerator because I’ve been working really hard on my master thesis. It’s about managing large scale webserver infrastructure. This means it’s a thesis on configuration management applied to the problem of managing webservers and everything related. A lot of the work I’m doing could just as well be applied to any other computer infrastructure.

I’m a heavy open source supporter and I really hate duplicate work, so I always try to reuse existing software and extend or incorporate it. For my thesis I basically had the choice between building a layer on top or extend an existing system. I’ve studied four major open source systems that are referenced a lot in the literature: cfengine, bcfg2, lcfg and Puppet. For reasons I’m going to explain in my thesis (it’s going to be in Dutch), I chose to use puppet and extend it.

Webservers are more or less just a gateway to an application that runs in some sort of environment like WordPress in a Linux-Mysql-Php environment or a Ruby-Rails-Linux-Postgresql environment. This requires installing software, creation configuration files, … Almost all configuration management systems already do this, on Fedora I can even do this by installing the wordpress or drupal package.

However some more powerful features are required that aren’t provided or not sufficiently developed. The virtual/exported resource system in Puppet is a good start but it could be improved a lot. An other features are creation rules like proposed in the PoDIM system by my thesis counselor and my supervisor. Today I finished a first version that introduces these rules in Puppet, available in my features/collection branch of my puppet git repo (listed on the puppet wiki).

These rules allow to say “make sure at least 2 dns server configured on this group of hosts”. Puppet will make sure that if two hosts are available that match the criteria in the rule, they will be configured as a dns server. The servers can then export their ip addresses so all machines in the network can add them in their /etc/resolv.conf This is just one of the great things you could do and I’m very excited about them!

Master thesis

Today I submitted my final thesis application. The application is in Dutch but I’ll try to translate it because it does have something to do with my work on eAccelerator. The title is “Management of large web infrastructure”.

In this thesis I’ll try to model the configuration of webserver(s) on a higher level together with the interaction with other services like network, firewall, dns, … The purpose is to come to a system that allows one to describe the configuration of one or more webservers and depending on the capabilities of the available platforms and server software to deploy the configuration.

I think it’s going to be interesting for me, especially because of my work at ULYSSIS and me work on eAccelerator.