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www.tamu.edu: The Server

July 10th, 2007 by Erick Beck

While most of the talk so far has been about the redesign of the WWW web site, relatively little has been said about the server itself. That’s unfortunate, because there are a lot of changes in the months ahead – not so much configuration changes as redefining its purpose and the services that will be allowed.  Many of the details are still to be worked out, but this post can serve as advanced notice that they’re coming.

One problem that has always existed has been knowing whether the machine and the domain ‘www.tamu.edu’ are primarily intended to host the university’s web site or if they are to be a university service open to anyone. Simply because of history, the latter has always been the case. The www.tamu.edu machine was brought up to host the university’s web page in the early days of the internet, and because of costs, expertise, and other factors it became the host for just about everything else.  In today’s technology-rich environment, though, this is really not a desirable framework.  As we begin preparing for the new WWW redesign and integration with the CMS, we intend to begin moving the service back inline with being the public face of the university and de-emphasize its role as an open resource.

The lack of an enforced, focused service mission  has led to several issues regarding the content that is now hosted on the machine, the services it provides, and the expectations of developers for what it should do. We are in the process of writing and getting approved a new set of service terms for use on the machine. While we don’t intend to close access down entirely, there will be some significant changes. Once the guidelines are approved we’ll post them here and elsewhere.

Some of these changes are being prompted by use of bandwidth, affiliation of content owners with the university, and security. The latter is particularly important as there have been several exploits of services across campus recently that have prompted us to reexamine use of software packages such as blogs and bulletin boards running on the machine.

Much of this change is becoming less relevant to most of you, as organizations have already been rapidly migrating away from WWW and onto their own servers (of >250 content directories, about 70 are nothing but meta redirects; another project is to convert these over to rewrite rules.)

We’ll be happy to talk in advance with any of you who own/maintain content on the server and want to know how you might be affected or what alternatives might be available. We don’t mean to make this a punitive process, but we do need to start taking steps to protect the integrity of the university public web site.

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007 Ongoing Projects, www.tamu.edu
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