Info Redesign Project Plan

Project Overview

Project Description

Migrate web services on info.uwaterloo.ca to a Linux-based platform.

Requested by: Mike Borkowski, IST

Planned implementation date: August 23rd, 2009

Project sponsor: Mike Borkowski

Project Objective

Project Purpose

IST operates a Solaris-based web server called info.uwaterloo.ca, which serves tens of thousands of hits per day, and functions as the primary web server for UW administrative units. Info.uwaterloo.ca is one of the most outdated servers that IST operates, partly owing to the difficulty in performing routine maintenance on it, and is one of the more public-facing IST servers lacking redundancy and disaster recovery procedures. This project is focused on migrating info.uwaterloo.ca to a Linux-based OS and bringing its web services in-line with current versions. Further plans include making these web services more resilient to planned and unplanned outages through the use of network-attached storage, a redundant stand-alone production database server, hardware load balancing, and multiple back-end web server nodes.

With the high number of virtual hosts managed by info.uwaterloo.ca, the overall plan is to test the new environment to the greatest extent possible and then make the switch on a single day. With a significant majority of the web pages on info.uwaterloo.ca providing static information, this is anticipated to provide the best migration strategy. Those not providing mostly static information will be contacted for the most testing.

In anticipation of a web content management platform to be delivered later in 2009 or early in 2010 it is prudent to remove the barrier of an outdated service.

Project Deliverables

  • Linux-based info.uwaterloo.ca server running current versions of Apache httpd, PHP, and MySQL;
    • includes a method of PHP file execution that executes PHP files with the credentials of the file owner, or those of a userid and group hardcoded in the web server configuration;
  • Clearly-defined disaster recovery procedures;
  • Web data copied to an off-site location on a regular basis;
  • Web-based documentation explaining:
    • an overview of the IST LAMP systems;
    • technical details concerning installed software;
    • instructions on client configurable items.
  • Web-based, publicly-accessible project plan.

Measurable Success Indicators

  • All functions previously performed by the old Solaris-based server will be performed by the new Linux-based server;
  • No outstanding problem reports of a critical nature following the switchover;
  • PHP files executed by a user that is not the same as that used to run the web server processes;
  • Clients are able to edit their web sites with the same level of familiarity as on the old Solaris-based server;
  • Documentation on IST web services is compiled and made available online.

Scope Inclusions and Exclusions

Inclusions

  • Server OS migration from Solaris to Linux;
  • Upgrades to Apache, PHP, MySQL software versions;
  • Method of executing PHP files;
  • Migrating processes and application run from within Xhier to a non-Xhiered Linux environment;
  • A testing server on which web admins can verify that their sites function properly in the new environment;
  • Tidying of stale UNIX accounts and groups.

Exclusions

  • Workflow modifications for web admins and developers;
  • Changes in database server software;
  • Additional web server software;
  • Version control initiatives.

Project Parameters

Costs/Benefits

Costs

  • IT staff time spent:
    • drawing up project plan;
    • creating technical specifications;
    • creating Work Breakdown Structure (WBS);
    • implementing the WBS and revising it where necessary, with the proper approvals.
  • Server hardware for:
    • info.uwaterloo.ca web server;
    • additional networking components where required;
    • off-site disk storage.

Benefits

  • Provides current software levels to address current web requirements;
  • Reduces overall IST web environments from three platforms to two;
  • Provides current platform in anticipation of web content management system;
  • Ease in deploying new web server environments using kickstart and cfengine;
  • Ability to recover more quickly in the event that web services are severely compromised on info.uwaterloo.ca.

Constraints

  • Staff time necessary to revise existing institutional processes may be limited or non-existent;
  • Focus on this effort with two other major web changes in the planning stages, i.e. a new web content management system and a re-branding initiative for UW web pages;
  • Scheduling downtime may be difficult on account of the server's heavy usage;
  • Institutional budget cutbacks may affect new purchases.

Assumptions/Risks

  • IST will be able to migrate all institutional data feeds and processes listed in InfoAssessment to the Linux platform;
  • An accurate testing environment will be difficult to configure on account of the CNAMEs in use on info.uwaterloo.ca and the production MySQL databases to which the various sites connect;
  • The Web Content Management system that the Web Advisory Committee is investigating is expected to integrate with web services on info.uwaterloo.ca, and so both projects should be aware of the other in order to avoid conflicts;
  • PHP services on info.uwaterloo.ca may be slowed by heavy mod_suphp usage.

Project Team

  • Shawn Winnington-Ball, UNIX Support: Project manager, primary technical resource;
  • John Doe, Client Services: Client liason, testing;
  • Bob Doe, IST UNIX: reworking necessary code on info.uwaterloo.ca.
  • Jane Doe, SISP: testing alternate institutional data process feeds;

Project Stakeholders

  • Web site administrators on info.uwaterloo.ca;
  • IST UNIX team members;
  • Client support staff in IST and elsewhere on-campus;
  • Project leads responsible for institutional processes running on info.uwaterloo.ca;
  • Web users on and off-campus.

Project Timeline

-- ShawnWinningtonBall - 09 Apr 2009

Topic revision: r11 - 23 Jul 2009 - 14:37:09 - ShawnWinningtonBall
 
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