SL6 upgrade for US Unit Final Report

This report covers the work requried to upgrade US managed servers from SL5 to SL6.


The list of US Unit servers was established - see UserSupportUnitServerUpgrade. The first task was to establish which servers could reasonably be retired completely or moved to a virtual machine. We were able to identify 12 servers that could be 'retired' and were able to move the websites (ANC/DTC) previously hosted on nimrod to a virtual machine, nimrodkvm. That left us with 31 servers to upgrade.


  • Although the servers managed by US are not particularly complex in terms of what they do or how they are installed, we found the scheduling took considerable CSO and CO effort. To a certain extent we are at the mercy of the owner of the machine and when, for example, we are told that there are 'important deadlines', we do in the first instance have to take this into account when scheduling upgrades. This can, however, turn into a tedious, iterative and time-consuming process. In some cases, of course, we get no response at all and have to chase repeatedly.
  • Although presumably of benefit in the long run, the process of persuading users to part with kit involved a fair bit of effort.
  • We also took the time to record how much data was held on local disks and whether this is backed up or not. See recommendations later!
  • The actual upgrades went relatively smoothly with a few exceptions which are described later.
  • It's reasonable to say that many users see the upgrades as an inconvenience rather than an essential process to maintain the integrity of our systems.
  • The only machine that gave us problems from an installation point of view was mcgahey - a MacPro2 . We gave the owner the option of going self-managed but they didn't want to do that. They asked for the data to be copied from mcgahey to some group space but there was insufficient space available. We finally did, however, rsync the data elsewhere.


  • We moved the web sites hosted on nimrod to a virtual machine, nimrodkvm. The move appeared to go perfectly smoothly but the version of joomla that the user had installed was very out of date. This caused an issue with the web pages not displaying as expected. The Institute in question previously hired a student to maintain the site but no longer have one and so it fell to COs to fix the 'self-managed' website as a matter of urgency.
  • Identifying machines that we could possibly retire was relatively easy. Trying to sort out the data stored on these machines was not so straightforward, particularly when some of the 'owners' have long gone!
  • SynthSys upgrades appeared to go OK but again, some software that they installed did not work as expected after the upgrade but this was only noticed several months afterwards.


  • We need to try to be more forceful with scheduling upgrades and sticking to our timetable. One possible way to help with this would be to put more effort into explaining why it is necessary and the resulting benefits. If we can get the users to see it as a benefit rather than an inconvenience we would probably have less of a struggle.
  • A sideline of the upgrade process highlighted that there is a reasonably significant amount of data on local disks that is not backed up. Not all users are aware of this so we need to re-iterate the point that users should not be storing any 'important data' on local disk without making backup arrangements. In fact, users don't even always know where their data is actually stored which just adds to the problem. Some thought required on how to get this point across.
  • We need to stress the importance of knowing when people are leaving so that we can explain the need for them to sort out ownership of data that they wish to pass on and deletion of data that is no longer needed. This is ongoing at the moment.


The project took 2.1 weeks of CO effort and an estimated 3 weeks of CSO time.

-- AlisonDownie - 30 Sep 2013

Topic revision: r2 - 30 Sep 2013 - 15:35:39 - AlisonDownie
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