ODIN is an experimental platform developed and maintained by Isaiah Beard, Digital Data Curator for Rutgers University Libraries. Designed and maintained using personal funds and resources, the ODIN server platform was born out of a need for an extremely low-cost server environment that was highly flexible yet secure, and capable of rapidly responding to configuration changes for experimental digital curation work. Its primary mission is to provide a contained, isolated area where workflows involving massive files of large datasets, audio and video can be tested, and where the unexpected results of such tests will not disrupt other software development projects.
The server is currently running Ubuntu 14.04 LTS.
This server is currently hosted as a virtual private server (VPS) hosted by VULTR, and housed in the Dupont Fabros Technology PNJ1 datacenter, in Piscataway, New Jersey. This vendor was selected for its flexibility and innovative features, including rapid server deployments, use of Solid State Drives (SSD) for rapid and reliable storage, and multiple datacenter locations. In the event of an extended outage or other issue, ODIN can be rapidly respawned from a nightly backup image (or a manually created one) on one of 13 alternate data center locations in the US, Europe, Australia, and Japan.
Backups and snapshot images regularly occur on a nightly basis, and are held separately on Amazon Glacier storage for redundancy.
Part of this current incarnation of ODIN is to test and experiment with the flexibility of virtual servers. The nature of virtualized computing means that the specifications of ODIN can change based on need: RAM can vary, as can disk space and processing power, on demand.
Ubuntu was ultimately chosen as ODIN’s OS for the following reasons:
Security. The Ubuntu development community is focused on security, and patches to vulnerabilities and potential problems are made available on a prompt and frequent basis. With the exception of patches to the linux kernel itself, most of these security updates can be applied without a disruption in service or requiring a reboot, all while strictly maintaining version control for installed software.
Security updates are provided for standard versions of Ubuntu for 18 months, while Long Term Support (LTS) editions are given up to 5 years of security updates and maintenance fixes for server installations. New versions of Ubuntu are released every six months, and upgrading to the latest version is a straightforward, on-the-fly process.
Track Record and Acceptance. While Ubuntu is one of the “younger” Linux OSes available, it has gained notoriety for being among the most popular Linux distributions in use today. In addition, large organizations with vast computing resources rely on Ubuntu, such as Amazon and Wikipedia.
Vast package repository. Ubuntu builds on the Debian package repository, and has a vast number of readily available, precompiled software packages that can be configured for quick installation.
Low maintenance/ease of use. With security updates and bug fixes easy to apply, regular maintenance of the server is a relatively simple affair. With the latest version (14.04LTS) of Ubuntu, service commands conform to either the Debian or Redhat/Fedora models, making the learning curve for sysadmins from either background very short.
Cost. Ubuntu is free software, like many other variations of Linux. Unlike some other versions however, there is a strong, large and active support community of users who are willing to offer free advice and assistance.
Support for multimedia. Probably the most important reason for choosing Ubuntu: its software package repository contains numerous media-centric and media-friendly codecs, protocols and utilities, permitting easy manipulation of audio and video files without having to hunt down and compile the necessary components. Prior to Ubuntu, running a Windows or Mac environment was nearly essential for video manipulation processes. The attention to media applications within Ubuntu now makes many of these same functions possible in a linux environment with little extra effort.
Other questions? Please contact this server’s administrator:
Isaiah Beard – Digital Data Curator
Scholarly Communication Center – Rutgers University Libraries
169 College Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Phone: +1 848 932 5932
E-mail: isaiah (dot) beard (at) rutgers (dot) edu