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Rebasing HUBzero® tool middleware from OpenVZ to Docker

The HUBzero® middleware has been based on OpenVZ container technology for over a decade. This provided very powerful control and customization options with light resource utilization, ahead of alternatives at the time. However, OpenVZ 6 will reach the end of life in November 2019. The next version, OpenVZ 7, is substantially different than its predecessors. Architecturally, OpenVZ 7 is becoming its own Linux distribution with limited support for the previous container management with "simfs". Adapting the HUBzero middleware to simfs under OpenVZ 7 resulted in a loss of quota management. HUBzero tool development under OpenVZ, as well as testing the entire HUBzero software stack, has been problematic because it required people to install a different kernel than the one provided by their distribution; under OpenVZ 7, having to install a specific distribution would make the problem even worse. The HUBzero middleware also required that all tools use the same tool template, so upgrades to the tool template necessitated synchronized upgrades and retesting of all tools.

Meanwhile, Docker emerged as a popular choice for creating, sharing, and deploying containers. Docker isn't tied to a specific Linux distribution and is easier to install and use than OpenVZ. Having the entire HUBzero software stack, not just the middleware, redeployed as Docker containers would ease testing, development, adoption, and deployment. However, there were several challenges to doing so. One is that by default, Docker heavily manages the host firewall, conflicting with the management performed by the HUBzero middleware, which also interacts extensively with the host firewall. That Docker functionality is optional, but enabled by default and usually expected to be functional. We didn't want to disable the Docker firewall functionality, as that may be surprising and cause compatibility issues. The second challenge was trying to separate the X11 server and related services, from the tools themselves, which used to all be located in the same OpenVZ container. Doing so creates flexibility and makes sense as newer tools tend to emit HTML directly and do not require an X11 server. It also makes tool containers smaller and more easily shared and managed. The third challenge is an ongoing one, which is to evaluate the security implications of using Docker instead of OpenVZ and develop better assurances based on gathered experience and evidence.  

Rebasing tool middleware to Docker is an ongoing project that has not yet been rolled out to all hubs.  We do plan for this to be implemented on all hubs in the future. If you would like to learn more about Docker or ask the team questions about this work, please join us at our next HUBzero® Community Meeting in July.

Written by: Pascal Meunier and David Benham

Google Analytics

In order to improve the functionality of the platform, the HUBzero® team is interested in observing data trends with hubs using Google Analytics. To share your hub’s Google Analytics with the team, add as a new user to provide the team with view-only access. Your data will only be used to improve the HUBzero® platform and will not be redistributed in any fashion.

2.2.17 Release Notes 

The HUBzero® development team has released 2.2.17 to no hassle hubs on Sunday, June 2nd. With this update the following changes were released:
  • Accessibility fixes
  • Numerous bug fixes mostly related to Javascript issues
  • Moved more inline Javascript to external files
  • Trouble Report form (mode_reportproblems) is now loaded upon demand rather than included on every page
  • Resources: COiNs microformat generator moved to plugin and now included for each resource in the listing (/resources/browse)
  • Login now uses com_login instead of com_users. A migration was added to update menu items and all core code now points to com_logincom_users is now a proxy for com_login, to maintain backward compatibility. Note: This removed the remaining Joomla-based code still in use.
  • Added SVG file type icons to /core/assets/images/filetypes and changed the media manager and Project Files to use said icons
More details can be found at
Copyright © 2018 HUBzero Foundation LLC, All rights reserved.

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HUBzero Foundation LLC · 155 S Grant St · West Lafayette, IN 47907-2114 · USA

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