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System Administration via IRC

by termix (Beadle)
on Dec 26, 2001 at 19:17 UTC ( #134401=CUFP: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

To make system administration a snap, we have used the UnderNet IRC daemon and the sirc Perl/C IRC client by 'orabidoo' (roger...@pobox.com).

We had agents (in Perl of course) talking to the programs and systems under management that were able to collect data and chat on the central server using sirc. Each machine had its own channel and each agent had its own handle. The agents were also able to recognize sysadmins and commands that they issues (over IRC) and executed them on the systems they monitored.

Administrating the system thereforward, feels like having actual conversations with the systems. This is specially advantageous when we need to get multiple admins together to administer and control a large set of servers.

Additional features that we had included were 'scribes' that would take down the conversation for archiving and were intelligent enough to recognize commands that activated and deactivated them. They were also able to play back a command stream (allowing us to simply ask a scribe to shutdown all our pvm machines in the correct order for example). These scribes also worked to share data amongst channels by retransmitting messages on other channels.

It introduces quite a bit of fun into the task of administrating our systems. Yes, it has gotten to be a serious security issue, and we have had to create a separate secure environment within our already firewalled network for this. But you have to admit, it is pretty cool to be able to chat with your machines.

-- termix

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: System Administration via IRC
by sparkyichi (Deacon) on Dec 26, 2001 at 21:20 UTC
    It sounds very interesting, but my primary concern would be security. Can you please elaborate more on the security issues that you found.

    Sparky

      There is only one security issue: There isn't any

      We had the IRC server not do any relaying (don't want everyone in the world getting our messages). The IRC server was also networked on a separate subnet operating on it's own IP set without any way of forwarding information out of that subnet.

      And perhaps most important of all, physical and network access to these machines is limited to a small number of people that are themselves financially responsbile for the system (these are our own machines). Hence you can figure out: we had no ability to use this system remotely (from home, or the other labs etc.).

      I wouldn't recommend IRC for any level of remote administration. But there are better chat systems out there. The idea is to convert administration tasks into conversations with intelligent agents and having support agents that mine those conversations for data.

      And of course using PERL for all of this...

      -- termix

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