Gaining knowledge by working with Kangaroot
Scouts en Gidsen Vlaanderen is the service-providing umbrella for 542 Flemish scouts groups. The organisation is runned by a number of volunteers and the 90 employees of the national secretariat. Tinus Van Langendonck, formerly web developer, coordinates the Informatics department as temporary department head. Henk van Stippent is the system administrator and Bram Scheerder covers IT support.
With its 10 volunteers, the Informatics team keeps an eye on all IT applications. Together with the Informatics department, this team collaborates in different open source projects. For example, the HO guide app has been fully developed with open source technology. “Everything we offer to our volunteers contains open source software. We do not want to be dependent of one supplier”, Tinus explains. The team has been participating for several years in the European ‘Round Table’ discussions where exchanges between scouts from different European countries are at the top of the agenda. “During one of these meetings I’ve picked up the idea of starting with Ansible”, Tinus starts.
Open Source within Scouts en Gidsen Vlaanderen
Currently at Scouts and Gidsen Vlaanderen, a lot of open source tools (Drupal, Zabbix, Proxmox, Artifactory, Jenkins, etc.) run alongside Microsoft Windows, Office and Dynamics. “We will certainly not be unique in that combination of using open next to closed software”, explains Henk. “Thanks to the use of open source software, we definitely save money. If we would replace all our current open source software with closed source, it would be more expensive”, confirms Tinus.
Open source has gained a lot of publicity during the last years. Unfortunately, many people still do not know what it is and think that open source is hard to reconcile with proprietary software. “I expect this will change in the near future, if I see what Azure is currently doing. There you can really make that combination of proprietary and open source software”, illustrates Henk.
Automation thanks to Ansible
The choice to automate, with the help of Ansible, was made quickly. Tinus explicates: “We have a lot of different projects running and we’ve noticed that if we would manage this manually, it would take so much time.For example creating new accounts on each server previously took almost half a day and now, thanks to Ansible, we do this in 10 minutes.”
“On the one hand, we had too little time; on the other hand, we lacked expertise. Especially when we started with Ansible. There are so many possibilities with this tool”, says Tinus. Henk points out: “At the beginning of 2017 we were looking for a third party who could support us in managing our open source tools and design them in a project. In Kangaroot we have found a partner with whom we could work together and elevate our own knowledge.”
Scouts en Gidsen Vlaanderen had already set up a server with Ansible in advance, while Kangaroot mainly designed the framework. “In the beginning there were only a few Ansible scripts but that quickly grew into a tangle. If you do not keep track of this in a systematic way, it becomes uncontrollable”, describes Henk.
Open Source Databases
Already ten years ago, Scouts en Gidsen Vlaanderen decided to get started with PostgreSQL. “We are very satisfied with the product, but you have to know what you are doing. It gives us peace of mind that we can double-check our ideas with a Kangaroot engineer”, Tinus indicates. Kangaroot has updated the existing local PostgreSQL environment and soon the migration to Azure is planned.
“The intention is to use the Azure Database for PostgreSQL and the MySQL version. We are going to run both, side-by-side”, says Tinus.
Migration to Azure
Scouts en Gidsen Vlaanderen will migrate its virtual machines and containers to Azure. “In our current datacenter you can set up VM’s (or have them set up), but that’s where it stops. There are many providers that offer that service. But if you really want to manage it yourself; Azure offers more possibilities than the competing colleagues do”, adds Henk.
At Scouts en Gidsen Vlaanderen they strive to keep the freedom to switch to possible other cloud suppliers with the help of Ansible. Tinus explains: “At all time, we want to avoid a vendor lock-in. That would limit our possibilities too much.”
Once the migration to Azure is finished, Scouts en Gidsen Vlaanderen wants to start looking at other open source projects. The future planning contains reviewing the backup, finding out how to set up a log server using ELK, migrating the mail server, etc.
- Microsoft Windows
- Microsoft Office
- Microsoft Dynamics NAV
- Azure Database for PostgreSQL Azure Database for MySQL