Cybera had been using a network management system called CMDB for over a decade. This is where we keep track of the network connection details for each of our members and upstream providers. CMDB originated at BCNET, our National Research and Education Network (NREN) partner next door. Cybera’s NREN architecture was based on BCNET’s architecture, so we knew their network management system would also work for us.
As time went on, Cybera’s needs began to outgrow the original CMDB. We extended it by adding our own features and even built a member network portal with it. But that only took us so far. The technology that CMDB was based on was becoming outdated, and our member portal provided little possibility of adding new services and features. It was clear that we needed to find a new solution.
After an extensive investigation, we decided to use NetBox as the basis of our new network management system. To add features that NetBox was missing, we wrote a custom plugin called Sidekick. We also leveraged Sensu for monitoring and alerting, Graphite for storing network metrics, and Grafana for visualizing those metrics.
For the portal, we built a small Django web application that reads data from the above components and presents them to members in a read-only way. We were quickly able to reach feature parity with the previous portal.
After that, we decided to implement two new key features:
The older portal used a traditional authentication method where Cybera managed local users and passwords. For the new portal, we wanted to leverage a single sign-on system where members could log in using a Google, Microsoft, or Canadian Access Federation (CAF) account. The benefit of doing this is twofold: members can be assured their account will never be compromised via our portal, and members are able to take advantage of the enhanced security features of their Google, Microsoft, and CAF accounts, such as two-factor authentication.
The second feature we implemented was a dashboard for our new Miridor service. We envisioned the portal to be more than just a network portal. We wanted it to be a foundation for future member services, and the timing with the launch of Miridor worked well. If you are using our Miridor service, you can log in to the portal and review your historical bandwidth usage with Cybera in one tab, as well as security-related details about your network traffic in another tab.
Technology is constantly evolving. Our PHP, Perl, MySQL, and RRD-based network management system and portal evolved into a new version based on Python, Django, Sensu, Graphite, and Grafana. No doubt we’ll be looking at changing this again in another 10 years, and that’s okay. For now, we’re enjoying the new platform and are looking forward to all the additional services we can add to it.
We invite members to check out the new portal here and let us know what you think! Does this cover the information you need? Are there additional data points or features you would like us to add? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.