Technology

Humanities Computing provides our computing infrastructure using a combination of third party/off campus services, IT Services provided solutions, and where necessary in house hardware. The following page is an overview of the software and hardware underlying the Division’s computing services. This information is intended for tech savvy users who are curious how their services are provided and as a reference for users who know what they are looking for to shop for potential services.

This document is not exhaustive and is subject to change. We routinely add new services in response to specific needs and phase out older services as better alternatives become available. If you have a computing infrastructure need that is not directly addressed by the following information, please reach out to us. We may know of someone on campus who is running such a system or may be able to consider offering it as a new service.

Our philosophy for computing infrastructure is to avoid unnecessary duplication of services if possible. We work with IT Services, the Research Computing Center, and other centralized providers of computing infrastructure to identify and support services they provide that meet the needs of the Humanities Division. In some cases we will step in as an additional layer of support for centralized services (providing user account management, setup, and troubleshooting). In cases where there are no central services that meet the needs or price points of the Division we will deploy the appropriate hardware and software infrastructure necessary to provide those services.

In-house Infrastructure

Web Services

Drupal

The Division uses a single Drupal 7 core for the vast majority of the sites that we and our affiliates use. It uses CNetID based authentication and is run on our Seamonster HA LAMP environment. More details about the Drupal hosting environment can be found on our Drupal Hosting Guide and the “About our CMS hosting” section of our Affiliate Program page. We have the ability to host Drupal 6 sites as well, but strongly discourage users from doing so as Drupal 6 is reaching the end of its supported lifespan.

Lucian (WordPress)

We run a WordPress network. Our WordPress install is generally kept at or near the latest software version. It uses CNetID based authentication via LDAP and is run on our Seamonster HA LAMP environment. More details about our WordPress & general CMS environment can be found in the “About our CMS hosting” section of our Affiliate Program page.

Custom/experimental web hosting, redirects, & misc web services

While most of the Division’s web content lives on Drupal, Lucian, or IT Services Webspace, there are a number of other projects with special hosting requirements. These include legacy systems written in languages that are not typically used for modern web application programming or older versions of languages that do not run well on modern runtimes. Additionally, there are systems that provide higher levels of security for at-risk applications as well as sandbox-type environments for evaluating and testing new software for research projects.

We offer a few custom LAMP hosting environments depending on your exact needs. Hosting on Seamonster (our high performance, high availability cluster) is available. Seamonster uses a relatively new version of PHP (5.5) has Varnish based caching available as well as Apache Solr based search acceleration. Access to Seamonster is presently restricted to SFTP only via our relay server (humrelay.uchicago.edu). We have a second custom LAMP environment called Naucrates (naucrates.uchicago.edu) with a different mix of performance and capabilities. Naucrates applications run in a more secure and isolated environment (suexec rather than modphp) and don't have access to the Varnish/Solr services. This arrangement allows us to offer full shell access, however. Naucrates presently runs an older mix of software (Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and PHP 5.3) to facilitate older applications that have not been updated for the latest versions of PHP.

All of our hosting environments use Apache as their primary application server. SSI and the usual Apache configuration systems (.htaccess, .htpasswd) are available. All of them support arbitrary *.uchicago.edu DNS names, including TLS/SSL support for those names. We can set up arbitrary Apache (or load balancer) level redirects for any of the DNS names that we have hosted in the past in case you restructure, want to change the name of your site, or move to another provider.

Application Services

Administrative Applications

For internal administrative applications (Tracking of academic appointments, student degree progress, course scheduling, etc) we use a mixture of legacy FileMaker Pro applications and more modern web applications built on Ruby on Rails & Ember.js.

Mantaray (FileMaker)

Mantaray is our modern FileMaker environment. It runs the latest version (Presently 14) of the server. It can only host .fpm12 format files and later and requires a FileMaker 13v9 or later client. iOS clients are supported by this server. It is run on a virtual machine on the Humanities cluster. Authentication is provided via UChicago’s Active Directory server.

Storage Services

Clownfish (Legacy research storage)

Clownfish is our legacy research storage environment. It is a solution built on Apple’s (now discontinued) Xserve hardware and Promise VTrak direct attached Fibre Channel RAID arrays. Clownfish supports the SMB 1.0, AFP, and SFTP protocols. Clownfish has a single 1 gbit uplink to the campus network. Clownfish is backed up daily to disk scratch and periodically to LTO4 magnetic tape. Clownfish authentication uses a legacy Apple Open Directory system.

Leviathan (Modern research storage)

Leviathan is our modern research storage environment. It is a solution built on EMC’s VNXe 3100 hardware. It supports the SMB 3.0 protocol, and upon request can be re-shared via our relay server (humrelay.uchicago.edu) via SFTP. Leviathan has pair of 4Gbit LACP bonded uplinks to the campus network. Leviathan is snapshotted hourly (retention period 2 days), backed up daily to disk scratch, and periodically to LTO5 magnetic tape.

Hosting Environments

Seamonster / Seastar

Our high-availability, high-performance LAMP environment. Ubuntu Linux 14.04 LTS. Apache 2.4 application servers. PHP 5.5 via mod_php. Nginx is used for load balancing, TLS termination, and certain redirection and filtering tasks. Varnish is used for page caching for anonymous users. Apache Solr is used for high performance search services. Load balancers and backends are run on the Humanities VMWare environment. Seamonster backends are on a private network for security purposes. This limits their ability to pull information from the outside world to those operations that can be done through forward proxy servers. Seamonster has a nearly-identical development environment called Seastar that is used to test software before deployment.

Naucrates

Our high-security LAMP environment. Ubuntu Linux 12.04 LTS, Apache 2.2 application server. PHP 5.3. Suexec+CGI is used for application isolation & security. Naucrates is run on the IT Services VMWare environment.

Humadm (Administrative Web Applications)

Our high-security Ruby on Rails administrative application server. 

Reef (Virtual Machines)

The Humanities Division operates a high-availability VMWare environment using ESXi 5 running on a mix of Dell R710 and R620 hardware. Backing iSCSI storage is provided by an EMC VNXe 3100 appliance. These VMs are used internally to provide the above services. Under some circumstances we will provision a Reef VM to handle special needs of individual projects.