15 July, 2014

containerisation of my own environment

I've encountered docker in a couple of work-related projects, and for a bit more experimentation I've begun containerising a chunk of my own infrastructure.

Previously I've had a few servers around which over the years have ended up with me being a bit scared to upgrade: too many dependencies for what should be separate services. Last time I rebuilt my main server, I looked at Xen but that machine was a little bit too out of date for doing decent virtualisation: having a bunch of different VMs was at the time the best way I could see for doing this.

I've ended up with an LDAP server for unix accounts, and a /home shared between all the containers that need home directory access (which is done with docker volume mounts at the moment, but there is scope for adding NFS onto that if/when I spread to more than one machine).

I've got separate containers for each of: inbound smtp, outbound smtp, an apache proxy that redirects to other containers based on URL, imap, webmail, ldap server, ssh server (so you are ssh-ing into a container, not the base OS).

The plan is that each of these is built and restarted automatically every week or so; along with a whole machine reboot at least once a month. I'm hoping that keeps stuff fairly up to date and helps me discover upgrade-related breakages around the time they happen rather than years later. It also forces me to pay attention to documenting how I set something up: all the stuff that is torn down and rebuilt each time needs to be documented properly in machine-readable form, so that the rebuild works. In that sense, it is a bit like automated testing of documentation.

I've also tried to set up things like port forwarding and http forwarding so that its not too reliant on using docker - so that I can spread onto other machines or use different virtualisation. That is, for example, how I intend to deal with upgrading the base OS in a few years time - by starting a new VM, moving the services across one by one, and then killing the old one.

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