Personal Profile for INEX

I was asked to write a personal profile for INEX in <= 300 words. Reproduced here.

If you want to confuse Barry, ask him where he’s from: born in Cork, spent his formative years in Galway and married into Dublin. He got a honours degree in Maths, his first love, from NUI, Galway in 2001 and went on to do four years research in information theory in UCD’s Computer Science department.

In 2005 he took a job with imag!ne to help build their ADSL broadband service from scratch to a position where it supported tens of thousands of subscribers. Barry branched out on his own in 2007 when he formed his own consultancy business, Open Solutions, which continued working with imag!ne as well as building up a portfolio of network, VoIP and web application development customers.

It was 2008 when Nick Hilliard, INEX’s CTO, approached Barry to provide a couple days operational support to INEX. Little did Barry realise what a huge part of his life INEX would become – both here in Ireland supporting INEX’s infrastructure and membership but also as part of the larger European and international IXP community.

Barry is the lead developer of IXP Manager (http://www.ixpmanager.org/) – a full stack management system for IXPs which includes an administration and customer portal; provides end to end provisioning; and both teaches and implements best practice. INEX is very proud to say that this project is now in use at over 33 IXPs and has grown legs of its own with the wider community sponsoring a full-time developer.

INEX has always been happy to help other IXPs and, through our relationship with the Internet Society (ISOC), RIPE and Euro-IX, Barry has travelled to countries with a less developed internet infrastructure to advise on best practice, has delivered a number of IXP Manager workshops and contributes to policy development.

Migrate Helpdesk from Cerberus 5 to Zendesk

After seven years of using Cerberus as our helpdesk system at INEX, we decided it was time to upgrade / move on. Following a fairly exhaustive (and painful!) search, we settled on Zendesk as having the right mix of features:

  • agent collision detection
  • a very nice API with an official PHP client supporting composer
  • a familiar workflow to what we were used to
  • enough configurable settings to make it do what we wanted without having to wade through a kitchen sink of options
  • mobile apps for both iOS and Android

The first hurdle was migrating all the existing tickets from Cerberus to Zendesk. There’s a number of ways we could have gone about this but the Cerberus schema was fairly intuitive and Laraval makes bootstrapping an application with database access really easy. As such, we simply iterated over the tickets in the Cerberus database and imported them into Zendesk (with attachments and by creating organisations and users on the fly).

See the code on GitHub at inex/cerb5-to-zendesk.

Nagios Plugin to Check Extreme Networks Devices

Over at INEX we’ve embarked on a forklift upgrade of the primary peering LAN using Extreme Networks Summit x670’s and x460’s. As usual, we need to monitor these 24/7 and we have just written a new Extreme Networks chassis monitoring script which should work with most Extreme devices.

It will check and generate alerts on the following items:

  • a warning if the device was recently rebooted;
  • a warning / critical if any found temperature sensors are in a non-normal state;
  • a warning / critical if any found fans are in a non-normal state;
  • a warning / critical if any found PSUs are in a non-normal state (or missing);
  • a warning / critical if the 5 sec CPU utilisation is above set thresholds;
  • a warning / critical if the memory utilisation is above set thresholds.

You’ll find the script in this Github repository: barryo/nagios-plugins.

A some verbose output follows:

IXP Manager – Planning for v4

A lot has changed in the 3 to 5 years that the decision was made to use certain libraries / technologies / methods on IXP Manager.

In previous major version changes we made some serious architecture changes in one sweep. For example v2 -> v3 saw the complete migration from Doctrine ORM v1 to v2 (which was a change from the Active Record pattern to the Data Mapper pattern).

Today, IXP Manager is a very large project and to do such a sweeping migration in one go would stifle development, break something that isn’t actually broken and take a lot of time.

But, sticking with older technologies and libraries has negative effects also. It creates developer apathy (for which I can personally vouch for). It also provides a major stumbling block for bringing on new developers and contributors (who wants to learn Zend Framework 1 now which has been EOL’d for sometime?).

So, our plan for v4 is to bring in new technologies without throwing away or rewriting everything we have.

IXP Manager is a MVC application that currently uses Doctrine2 as the Model, Smarty as the View and ZF1 as the Controller. Doctrine2 is still current and won’t be changing.

Smarty will remain as the view engine for current / unmigrated functionality. But Smarty is… oh my God… soooooo bad. v4 will default to Twig which is more modern and far better structured from a programming point of view. Coupled with the new framework, it will also allow for a nicer means of skinning. For the interested, Twig has some very nice features including layouts, macros and also some nice security features.

ZF1 has served us well but it’s been EOL’d and is now quite outdated. The new hotness in PHP is Laravel, which I’ve been using to great effect for a while now. Laravel show cases some of the new and best functionality of PHP and using very modern techniques (such as IoC).

But more importantly, Laravel will let us do things in a much different and much more flexible manner for the IXPs using IXP Manager. Some of these include:

  •  Job queues: built-in and simple (to use) support for job queues via Beanstalkd and others. Queuing jobs will provide functionality that we at INEX have been looking for (and it’s also an FAQ from other IXPs) -> reconfiguring services on demand (or, at least quicker than a twice daily cronjob).

Put this together with:

  • Events: Laravel allows us to trigger events and subscribe to them.

A key example of queue and event functionality would be that a change to a VLAN interface (such as checking the route server client box) would trigger a vlan interface changed event. One subscriber to this event would be the route server configuration manager. Based on the VLAN change, this event handler can then queue events. The route servers themselves would monitor these queues and rebuild / reconfigure the route servers appropriately on demand.

Similar handlers for route collectors, DNS ARPA changes, etc. can offer much more real time control of all the services at an IXP.

IoC decouples logic from the controller. What this means is that IXPs who want to do things differently than INEX (let’s say use Cacti instead of MRTG as an example), can swap out MRTG with Cacti with one line of code (that’s assuming we write contracts – interfaces – for such handlers and a Cacti version is coded of course!). But that’s the kind of power and flexibility we’re looking to bring in.

Other features Laravel provides includes:

  • Much improved unit testing on controller actions. Right now, we spin up Apache and MySQL to test controller actions. This is no longer required with Laravel making tests easier to write, more robust and more focused with built in support for mock objects.
  • A much nicer and more structured way of creating command line interfaces rather than the quite clunky way we have of doing it currently.
  • A much more natural way to develop REST API endpoints with json:api compatible responses.

And that leads us to the front end. Right now, the front end and the back end are tightly coupled. During the development lifetime of v4, we want to move more towards an API is Everything back end with a decoupled front end.

This separation will again aid unit testing providing a more reliable and robust IXP Manager. It will allow other IXPs to create their own front end on member facing portals or, even, move to IXP Manager as their back end system but retaining investment of current member portals by adding new features from IXP Manager through API endpoints. It will also allow existing systems in IXPs to integrate with IXP Manager to provision services and ports for example.

One of the bigger tests of this plan will be the (long awaited and badly needed) revamp of the member facing area. We’re currently planning the UI / UX of this to deliver key information to members in the best way possible. This will include Bootstrap v3 which is fluid from the ground up so mobile browsers to wide screen browsers should be supported naturally.

During the early stages of v4, we’ll create the API endpoints necessary to support the member portal functions and then create a front end on that using Ember.js.

Other changes in v4 will include:

  • A switch from package management via Git sub-modules to composer and Packagist as is current standard practice.
  • Introduction of Bower for front end asset management.
  • And we’ll need a task runner for pulling everything together – for that we’ll use Grunt (although that’ll mostly be a development / release prep tool rather than an end user requirement).

So, that’s what we’re looking at! It won’t happen overnight but we’ll continue our policy of release early, release often and we’ll update the documentation and provide complete upgrade instructions at the appropriate times. Some of the above is also subject to change depending on practical experience / issues as we move towards it.

Comments, ideas, etc. are all welcome.

Peering Week Articles on trefor.net

I spent the first few days of St Patrick’s week last month in Leeds at the first of the two annual Euro-IX conferences on behalf of INEX. Trefor Davies, of trefor.net, organised a series of articles called Peering Week on his blog to coincide with it:

During Peering Week we have had 18 excellent contributions from some of the people who run the internet in Europe. This might sound dramatic especially considering that the internet is made up of sixty or seventy thousand Autonomous Networks. The contributors this week run Internet Exchanges where a greats many of these networks connect to each other.

My contribution was about our IXP management system called IXP Manager – co-written by myself and Nick Hilliard for INEX. This tool is now being used to manage two IXPs in the UK, at least five more across Europe, a couple that we know about in the US and it is now the de facto choice for IXPs in Africa and Asia – where we are working with ISOC.

You can read the full article on Tref’s blog here: INEX’s IXP Manager – tools to help manage an Internet Exchange.

I’m glad to say that the good folks at Euro-IX helped ensure I wasn’t too homesick on St. Patricks’s Day – as the days proceedings wrapped up, we were greeted by:

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