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So, here’s the “official” scoop on the new project that I’m planning/starting to work on. I’m calling it PHPsa for now, and it’s going to (hopefully) be an integrated dashboard/portal for SysAdmins. While there are a number of tools that fit into this general category (perhaps with OSSIM being the closest, though it’s security-minded), I feel that there’s a real gap in terms of tool integration. My daily workflow, which includes multiple trips to and correlation among Nagios, Cacti, DNS, DHCP, Puppet, logs, and other tools really leaves something to be desired. So, I’m setting out to create a modular SysAdmin dashboard that unifies many of the common SysAdmin-related tools into a modular dashboard.

The first overall design goals that I’ve set are:

  1. A modular, plugin-based architecture that allows admins to select which features/tools they want, and allows easy development of new modules.
  2. Design with legacy tools in mind - easy ways to tie in to tools that weren’t written with PHPsa in mind, both in terms of linking to information and gathering/unifying information.
  3. RBAC, including per-module rules and the possibility for a limited read-only view (client/user mode).
  4. Use of data sources, specifically web-based/REST APIs where available, and databases otherwise, from existing tools with as little modification as possible.
  5. Support for database abstraction, though I’ll be using MySQL.
  6. Eventually, implement RSS feeds of pertinent information.
  7. Balance Ajax/DHTML with the desire for important things to have canonical, static, bookmark-able URLs.

So, here are some of the things that I’m planning on integrating, with obvious bias towards getting my own projects done before I integrate pre-existing tools:

  • MultiBindAdmin, my DNS and DHCP administration tool (specifically geared towards split-view DNS with the inside view behind NAT).
  • RackMan, my tool for mapping devices’ physical locations in racks (and tacking patching).
  • My simple config tool for Puppet.
  • Nagios.
  • Cacti.
  • Nathan Hubbard’s MachDB.
  • Bacula (monitoring/status only).
  • Syslog via rsyslog (or any other syslog-to-SQL solution).
  • Possibly a front-end to Google Analytics.
  • Some of my custom scripts for graphing SpamAssassin, DNS queries, etc.
  • Some sort of Apache log analysis, like Webalizer.
  • Mail log analysis, possibly AWstats.

So, the first big issues that I’m going to tackle:

  1. General layout. Specifically, how to handle a more-or-less consistent layout while integrating tools that weren’t designed for PHPsa. I’ll probably end up using iFrames (or even a frameset) for tools that don’t integrate well.
  2. How to correlate data/objects between different tools (i.e. how to display information from Nagios, Cacti, MultiBindAdmin and MachDB for a given host?).
  3. Do I want to use a templating engine like Smarty or hand-code all of the HTML?
  4. How will I handle plugins?
  5. How much code do I want to re-write and how much can I use as-is from other tools? And, on a related note, how much existing data can I access easily from other tools, vs having to use grabber scripts that dump data in MySQL?

Update 2010-02-03: I think this may become a semi-official project for me at $work, which means that I’ll be able to dedicate quite a bit more time to it. Unfortunately, it also means that I will, most likely, have to give up Nathan Hubbard’s MachDB in favor of OCS Inventory NG, a more mature project that already includes inventory support for Linux, Windows and Mac.


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