Retiring our Gentoo platform – Sundown until September 2018

Over the last years we have moved our managed service offerings from a Gentoo-based Linux system over to a distribution called NixOS.

Since almost two years this has been the platform of choice for new projects and even within existing projects we started to add NixOS VMs where possible. We have also migrated some projects or moved them partially to NixOS where newer components were required.

Today, it’s time to start saying goodbye to our old Gentoo platform. Of course, we won’t leave anyone behind who is still using Gentoo-based VMs. Here’s our schedule for the next months and it’s impact for customers using the Gentoo platform:

Phase Dates Impact for Gentoo VMs
Announced  Immediately
  • No further feature development
  • No major updates
Sundown period May 2018
to
August 2018
  • No new VMs
  • Security updates only
  • Migration to NixOS VMs depending on individual agreements
Grace period September­ 2018
  • No further security updates
  • Remaining VMs will stay online.
End of Life September 2019
  • Remaining Gentoo VMs will be shut down.

Note: Customers already using the NixOS platform will not be affected by this.

I’m still using Gentoo-based VMs. What do I do now?

If you’re a customer with a support contract in the “Guided” or “Managed” service classes  then we’ll approach you directly and discuss how to move your remaining Gentoo VMs to NixOS.

If you’re a customer in the “Hosted” service class then we recommend you contacting our support team to discuss setting up new VMs and migrating your services over. We’ll help you with any information and coordination that you might need, but you’ll be responsible to migrate your data and services to new machines.

And lastly, rest assured that we won’t shut off any remaining Gentoo VMs for at least another 18 months. However, as the old platform will not receive further updates and as there will be a hard limit in September 2019, we advise you to take the time and move to the new platform as early as possible.

How do I know which VMs are still using Gentoo?

You can look at the VMs of your projects on my.flyingcircus.io. Select a project (“More details”) and then choose “Manage” on the box titled “Virtual Machines”. You’ll see a listing like the one in this screenshot. The VMs have different labels. If a VM has a label “Puppet” then it is still running on Gentoo. If the VM has a label “NixOS” then it is already running on the NixOS platform.

Screen Shot 2018-03-15 at 13.03.33

Why are we moving to NixOS?

A big part of our service is that we want to have as few “breaking” updates as possible – after all, we want to deliver small and continuous updates. When we started out with out Gentoo-based platform more than 10 years ago, we envisioned that we would profit from Gentoo’s rolling nature.

However, with the rising complexity, Gentoo has shown conceptual issues that has hindered us to efficiently manage the balance between stability and progress.

NixOS has been around for a while but wasn’t ready until around 2015 when we started to investigate alternatives to Gentoo. Since then we’ve been achieving great improvements to our service that would be impossible on our old platform. Due to that, we decided that it’s time to make the transition for everyone.

Aside from the larger motivation, there are also a number of direct benefits for you when moving to our NixOS based platform:

  • VMs now run a 64-bit kernel which provide better performance for many languages (Python, Java, …) and allow larger RAM allocations to be used effectively.
  • Service users can install custom (Nix) packages and versions without requiring pre-defined roles from our platform and still have them monitored within our security update tools.
  • Improved logging (Graylog), monitoring (Sensu), and telemetry (Telegraf/Prometheus/Grafana) services that have a higher flexibility and allow more direct interaction without needing our personal assistance. (Even though we’re always happy to help!)
  • Overall a newer set of versions for many components like nginx (HTTP 2!), MySQL, PostgreSQL, Python, PHP, …
  • A better release process that is much much more robust and more flexible to provide you with early releases of customizations.
  • Faster installation of changes, updates, rollback capability, and local versioning of all configuration.

If you’d like to know more about NixOS and its benefits, we recommend talking to us or visiting the NixOS homepage. Similar to the effect that Gentoo has been a comparatively “exotic” Linux distribution, we know that NixOS may look even more so. However, our documentation has been extended with a NixOS-specific area that will help you discover the relevant parts for you to interact with. On every other account: it’s a Linux environment that will run your applications well and we hope that you’ll enjoy that platform that we’ve built using it.

If you have questions …

As always: if you have any questions or comments then let us know and send us an email to support@flyingcircus.io and we will follow up quickly.

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