2021 in review

This post is meant to give you a short overview of what has been accomplished in D-PHYS IT by ISG this year. We’ve been hard at work to further improve and extend our services for you, our customers. Some highlights of 2021:

  • Network migration: as first announced in 2018 and later detailed in July of this year, we had to completely restructure the D-PHYS network this fall. This reorganization was prompted by a segmentation of the router infrastructure at Hönggerberg and will render the network more redundant and resilient. Visible changes include a NAT network, new DHCP/DynDNS technology and the foundation for IPv6 in all network zones.
  • Hypervisor setup: we run a lot of virtual machines at ISG and this spring we remodeled our hypervisor infrastructure to make it more flexible and capable. Hourly snapshots now give us the possibility to roll back if something goes wrong in a VM. It also allowed us to move our InfluxDB server to an SSD backed hypervisor, increasing performance and stability.
  • Office 365 migration: the Microsoft Office suite was upgraded to M365 on all managed Windows workstations this year.
  • Proprietary software woes: two major software companies caused us (and you!) a lot of headaches this year: on July 5, Microsoft broke Windows printing while trying to fix a security problem and it took them until the end of November to really repair it for everyone. Good job. Meanwhile, Adobe managed to break Acrobat logins for months on end and there's no general solution yet.
  • Windows configuration synchronization: the technology used to sync your desktop settings between managed Windows workstations was migrated from 'roaming profiles' to UE-V this year for greater speed and better reliability.
  • New lab PC backup solution: after we've had a good experience with our 2020 laptop backup system based on restic, we set up a similar system for lab PCs in 2021. We're currently migrating the last machines from the old BackupPC server.
  • 2021 Hardware Crisis: you might have noticed that a lot of hardware components are only available at outrageous prices, lead times measured in months or just not at all. The situation is especially bad for graphics cards and storage components.
  • ISG lecture series: reacting to a growing demand for IT-related knowledge in the department, we established the Basics of Computing Environments for Scientists lecture series that we'll repeat each semester.
  • Matrix/Element: in 2021 we continued to extend the feature set of our popular chat & collaboration system. We contributed bug fixes and lots of time in bringing usable maths support into Element (our supported Matrix client) as this was our number one most wanted feature. The second most wanted was better support for managing groups, which was added this year with spaces. Behind the scenes we have been scaling out our homeserver to keep up with the demand and continue to be stable and responsive. This year we counted 702 active users, who sent 927'123 messages in 4'571 rooms that were created on our server. Our users also participated in 396 rooms that were not created on our server where 731'451 messages were sent.
  • Storage: in 2021 the disk space occupied by data and backup grew from 3.2 PiB to 3.7 PiB, continuing the obvious trend of ever-growing data. In spring (just in time before the 2021 Hardware Crisis) we replaced the older disk backends in our SAN with fewer, bigger disks.
  • Outages: apart from some short-term network interruptions, the only noteworthy service interruptions this year were two update-induced storage hiccups on June 10 and December 7.
  • OS upgrades: most managed Linux workstations were upgraded to Ubuntu 20.04 and a first batch of servers are now running Debian bullseye.
  • Software upgrades: mostly incremental upgrades in our Windows and Linux software list this year.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my whole team for their hard and dedicated work all year long.

Happy Holidays and see you in 2022!

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