irc.perl.org: State Of The Network

It's time for the first ever State Of The Network report for irc.perl.org. We're entering a new era in the evolution of the network and it's time we started communicating a bit better with our users.

Until recently, we, as operations staff, kept quiet and did our thing. Servers came; servers went; we kept to ourselves. Recently, we had a bit of a wake-up call. Thanks to an incident, which I'll get into here momentarily, we came to realize how important it is that we stop running a closed shop, that we open the network backend to the users and communities.

irc.perl.org is run on donated hardware by volunteers working in their spare time. About half the network, right now, is paid for by individual members of the operations team specifically for use by this network. The other half is sponsored by wonderful companies for our use.

At the end of January 2010, irc.perl.org came under direct attack. The perpetrators went through our DNS rotor one machine at a time, using a very simple UDP DDOS to basically blow the servers off the internet. Over the course of the following week, we suffered at least six separate attacks. One of our nodes was terminated by its hosting provider and the others stayed online out of the extreme patience and good will of their particular providers. We came very close to the complete termination of irc.perl.org services. Good will only goes so far.

In addition, several prominent members of the perl community were directly attacked. It seems the attackers used the user's whois data to provide a target.

As mysteriously as the attacks started, they stopped after about a week.

Since the initial attacks, we've instituted several network wide security precautions, including a completely new network architecture and topology. In addition to these internal matters, we are rolling out SSL connectivity to all nodes. While the servers already communicate over encrypted links, this allows the user to connect via SSL as well. We created the @perl_irc twitter account to provide status updates and announcements for the network. We are investigating ways to automatically cloak users' hostmasks. We're even looking into how services might be implemented and if they'd provide useful services for our users. (I'm definitely looking for feedback on that point. Would you find a basic nickserv/chanserv setup useful? Leave comments below or email sungo@sungo.us)

As we move into the rest of 2010, I'm extremely happy with the state of the network and the progress we've made. I'm not happy that some segment of the community finds it funny to nearly shutdown the network. It, however, forced us to make really important changes and decisions so it's not all bad, I suppose.

At the time of writing, irc.perl.org is comprised of 5 public nodes, 1100 users, 350 channels, and dozens of official perl projects. It is run and caretaken by a dozen hearty volunteers and sponsored by three organizations.

We thank you for flying irc.perl.org. This is your captain speaking; we hope you enjoy the flight and choose to fly with us again in the future.