Campus CollectionSpace systems migrated to managed servers, databases

July 30, 2015

Research IT has migrated CollectionSpace systems that manage five UC Berkeley museum collections to a consolidated set of centrally-managed hosts and servers. The successful migration was a six-month effort, completed in June 2015. The five systems manage collections at the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive (Art and Cinefiles collections), the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, the UC Botanical Garden, and The University and Jepson Herbaria. UC Berkeley’s Research IT department has installed and customized each of these as part of its CollectionSpace for Campus Museums service.

The application and database servers for each of these CollectionSpace systems are now managed by specialized teams: the Enterprise Unix team and Database Administration team, respectively, in UC Berkeley’s Information Services and Technology (IST) department. Delegating server management allows Research IT to focus its resources on software development, integration, configuration, and other services directly pertinent to UC Berkeley’s museums. It also substantially reduces the infrastructure - and thus cost and staffing - required to operate the campus’ CollectionSpace deployments, making those deployments more sustainable over the long haul.

In addition, the migration reduced the number of virtual machine (VM) hosts in the campus Data Center required to support UC Berkeley’s CollectionSpace systems, from ten to four. Within each tier – production and development – there are now just two hosts, down from the five hosts (one for each museum collection) formerly required. The application servers and other CollectionSpace-related services for all five collections have been consolidated onto a single application server host; and all of their associated databases are similarly deployed onto a single database server host.

Overview of the layout of the CollectionSpace systems for five UC Berkeley museum collections, following their 2015 migration to managed servers. (The production and development tiers are laid out similarly.)

Related IT systems and utilities used by each of these museums in conjunction with their core CollectionSpace systems have also been migrated by Research IT staff to this new, consolidated configuration. These consist largely of Django-based web applications (“webapps”) that integrate with CollectionSpace, as well as a number of batch jobs and other custom processes.

The migration and server consolidation was carried out by a cross-departmental team consisting of John Lowe (tech lead and service manager for UCB CollectionSpace deployments), Ray Lee, and Glen Jackson of the Research IT Museum Informatics team; Adam Fuchs and his colleagues on the IST Database Administration team; and Aaron Russo and his colleagues on the IST Enterprise Unix team. Planning for these moves began in early July 2014; followed by PostgreSQL database migrations, which kicked off in December 2014; and application server migrations, which began in May 2015.

As Ray Lee of Research IT noted:

“With this migration, we achieved several firsts for CollectionSpace in a production context: to run multiple server instances on a single VM, and then to configure them to share a single, remote database instance. We steadily gained confidence, through configuration tuning and ongoing testing, that they’d be stable and performant when rolled out to our customers. And it was great that we were able to engage with the IST Unix and DBA teams in a really productive way throughout this process.”