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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 additional assistance with web services. Each interactive system will operate a system-level httpd binding all common HTTP and HTTPS ports. This system-level httpd is used to provide proxy and reverse proxy service to user 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 formats understood by generic client software. Any service 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 nersc.gov addresses on the system-level proxying httpd.
  • All services must log all connections and requests to the central logging facility using a common format; using the proxying httpd satisfies this requirement.
  • All production services must be centrally monitored via a NERSC-provided nagios instance. The implementation of this monitoring is determined based on the needs and requirements of the service.
  • Web services may only bind to ports on the loopback device (127.0.0.1), 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 jgi.doe.gov 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, and 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 seek any additional detail needed.

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 maintaining 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 of the service operator. The NERSC security team will periodically scan systems and may provide guidance, however, the service operator is ultimately responsible. These responsibilities include configuring the service to minimize risk of exposure, discovering potential security vulnerabilities, and ensuring the latest security patches are applied to software in use.

Security Guidelines

  • Any service directly launching processes should require some kind of authentication or pre-shared key to reduce risk of unauthorized access.
  • All communcations should be encrypted, if possible.
  • Communications of authentication credentials or pre-shared keys must be encrypted.
  • Connections 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 quickly; it may be necessary to stop the service or disable associated accounts while addressing a security issue.

Backups

The service operator is responsible for ensuring appropriate backups are made. This may be as simple as ensuring the primary data store for the service is in an backed up portion of the filesystem. If the operator chooses to store the service on a local disk, they are responsible for both backup and restore of that data and software.