About Labnet

Origins and Evolution of Labnet

Labnet grew out of a simple desire to provide a consistent and reliable experience for the users of our computer labs while making life easier for the system administrators. In the mid nineties we started exploring strategies for booting our client computers disklessly from master application servers. Over the years we gradually developed web based tools and C utilities and daemons that have automated more and more of the system administrative functions underlying our computer labs.

Over time Labnet has evolved into a multifaceted software management system that performs desktop and server imaging and configuration as well as authentication, printer cost recovery and backups. All Labnet operations are centrally controlled by a database that is updated via a user friendly web based content management system. This same database acts as a repository for all computer specific configuration. Configuration changes to the database are automatically propagated to the desktop computers and servers immediately. Software for all Labnet servers running Linux and client computers running both Linux and Windows XP, is imaged from a master software repository under the direction of this database. Similarly all user data is backed up under the control of the system database. Every facet of our Labnet facility is managed and controlled by the master database.

Labnet currently manages around 85 servers, 100 cluster nodes and 900 desktop computers located in 50 labs across campus. The Labnet user community consists of 15000 students and 900 faculty and staff. Labnet currently offers 30 terabytes of on line data storage to its user community along with on line backups available 24/7 through a user friendly web interface. This data store is also accessible to users with non Labnet computers via Nomad.

Labnet was developed by the system administrators of the Department of Computer Science with the help of many computer science students over the past 15 years. As LabNet has grown throughout the university we have been fortunate in gaining additional supporters to our cause.

At this point, I would like to acknowledge the efforts of the open source community who have provided such a rich and diverse selection of software for everyone to work with in an uninhibited and free fashion. Without their contribution there would be limited choice in the computing industry today. I would also like to thank the many students and staff members of the Department of Computer Science, the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Student Housing and the Department of Computing and Communications for their tireless efforts in bringing about the success of Labnet.

Michael Rayment

Labnet Manager