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Databases and Web Services

JGI Services at NERSC

Any long-lived process or process listening to a network socket to communicate requires some special attention and care to ensure that the service is accessible to the appropriate audience, is properly monitored, and maintained correctly. The rules and guidlines presented here are intended to strike a balance between convenience of running and developing services with the need for system maintenance, distribution of resources, appropriate security, and monitoring of each service.

All services, even development services, should be registered with NERSC. Please file a help ticket to begin the registration process.

Web (HTTP/HTTPS) Services

Any service transporting data via HTTP or other related protocols (HTTPS, AJP) needs very careful handling because of the heightened risk of a security incident. For this reason, we have a special focus on providing some additional assistance with providing web services. Each interactive system will operate an system-level httpd binding all the common http and https ports. This system-level httpd is used to provide proxy/reverse proxy service to user-level web services. It is not intended to directly serve content. A web service is any service using HTTP or related protocol for transport, or delivering any form of HTML, XHTML, JSON or other common formats understood by generic client software. Any webservice which is used to directly launch processes on compute systems will require special scrutiny.

Guidelines for Running Web Services

  • All services should endeavor to support https (encrypted http) as the default method of communication. NERSC will provide appropriate certificates for addresses on the system-level proxying httpd.
  • All services must log all connections and requests to the central logging facility using a common format; this is achieved simply by using the proxying httpd.
  • All production services must be centrally monitored via a NERSC-provided services nagios instance. The form of the monitoring is determined based on the needs and requirements of the service.
  • Web services may only bind to ports on the loopback device (, and only on ports assigned to the service by NERSC staff. The assigned ports will be unique across the entire system to enable multiple services to operate on the same host simultaneously.
  • Each service will require a fully qualified hostname in the domain
  • Any service passing authentication credentials must use https to secure the communication
  • Any service starting processes must require some kind of authentication or pre-shared key to mitigate risk of unauthorized access
  • Only the NERSC-operated proxy httpd will provide access to services on ports 80, 443, 8000, 8080, 8443

Public Web Services

JGI users may host web services for public access. NERSC offers two web hosting environments, Spin and virtual machines. The requirements of your web service will determine which of these environments is appropriate. Please contact NERSC with inquiries regarding public web services.

Getting Started

When you’re ready, submit a request with the details of your planned web service. A NERSC consultant or other staff member will respond to let you know when the hosting environment is ready for you to deploy the development or test version (including an assigned TCP port), or to ask additional questions.

Production web services must be reviewed before they are launched. In preparation for this, please give advance consideration to:

  • look and feel: is the service and its behavior consistent with other related services?
  • on-going maintenance: what individual or group will be responsible for the service now, and what individual or group will maintain the service in the future?
  • application security: does the service follow the secure coding standards provided by OWASP and CERT, and are any software dependencies bundled with the application (e.g. Perl or Python modules or Ruby GEMs) regularly updated?

Service Security

Maintaining service security is an ongoing responsibility that the service operator will need to pay close attention to. NERSC Security will periodically scan the system and may provide some guidance, however, the service operator is ultimately responsible. The responsibilities include configuring your service to minimize risk of exposure, discovering potential security vulnerabilities, and ensuring the latest security patches are applied to the software you operate.

Security Guidelines

  • Any service directly launching processes should require some kind of authentication or pre-shared key to mitigate risk of unauthorized access
  • Communcations should be encrypted if possible
  • Communications of authentication credentials or pre-shared keys should be encrypted
  • Connections or at least communications should be restricted to computers in the NERSC (128.55.*.*) and possibly LBL (128.3.*.* or 131.243.*.*) address space
  • Any discovered security issues should be addressed very quickly; it may be necessary to temporarily stop the service or disable associated accounts while addressing a security issue


The service operator (you!) is responsible for ensuring appropriate backups of the service are made. This may be as simple as ensuring the primary data store for the service is in an already backed up portion of the filesystem. If you choose to localize the service to local disk, you will then be responsible for both backup and restore within your space.