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We are often able to help with server hosting, but because every hosting request is different, each case has to be taken on a case-by-case basis. This page is intended to be illustrative of what we can host, but any hosting request needs to be discussed with the Computer Officers (support@ch.cam.ac.uk) at the earliest opportunity.

 

Physical server hosting

We are often able to accommodate servers in our server rooms. In this context, "server" means a single standalone device. Although we host some compute clusters in the Department, their requirements are very different in nature and are not covered by this document.

There are a number of prerequisites that must be met before a server can be hosted in one of our server rooms.

  • Must be rack-mountable and be supplied with all required rails, mounting kit etc
  • Must have redundant (multiple) power supplies; we can usually arrange the supply of two independent power feeds, from mains and UPS
  • Must have remote management capability (IPMI 2.0, Intel RMM, Dell iDrac Enterprise, or equivalent) with full remote KVM ability. Dell iDrac Express does not include remote KVM.
  • Operating system must be installed on RAID

There are also some recommendations we normally make concerning the specification and configuration of server-class hardware (including but not limited to use of enterprise-class hard disks, and extended warranty). We can also, by arrangement, provide services such as: installing and managing the operating system (list of permitted operating systems), automated system monitoring and reporting, and configuration of backups.

If you would like us to host a physical server for you, it is imperative that you discuss your requirements with us at the earliest opportunity by emailing support@ch.cam.ac.uk . In particular, we cannot host a server that you have purchased without prior discussion.

Virtual machines

We can provide virtual machines to members of the Department; these are usually used for custom web hosting, but might be used for other purposes as well. A typical base configuration includes 10GB of storage and 512MB of RAM, running the currently-supported version of Ubuntu LTS. We find this is adequate for most small webservers but there is likely to be flexibility in what we can offer depending upon your requirements.

If you simply want a webserver for hosting static HTML, or a website that is based on the Department's standard Drupal hosting platform, you do not need a standalone virtual machine. These services are already provided via shared virtual machines managed entirely by the Computer Officers. 

If you are interested in any of the above services, please email support@ch.cam.ac.uk with a brief description of what you are trying to do.

Maintenance of hosted servers

Management of space for virtual machines

Virtual machines tend to multiply to fill all available hosting space. To ensure that space is not taken up by unwanted machines each one is given an expiry date on initial creation. Around a month before the expiry date an email is sent to the registered user of the machine to check if it is still required. If the machine is required then the date is updated. Machines whose expiry date has passed will be decomissioned without further warning when we need space for new virtual machines.

Management of software on virtual machines

The operating system on a virtual machine will eventually go out of support and require replacing. It is the responsibility of the registered user of the virtual machine to migrate their application to a new release of the operating system. When an VM's operating system is approaching end of life we intend to provide a new VM running the new version to make porting as easy as possible.

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