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This is the first of a series of posts describing the inner workings of Novell Cool Blogs. Over the coming month I will bring in others from Novell’s web and IS&T teams to describe some more of the process.

Written at: Salt Lake City, UT while preparing for BrainShare 2006.

Let’s begin by describing how Cool Blogs is put together.

Cool Blogs has two main sites – one is internal, available only within Novell, the other is public facing.

The internal system is the staging and development blog. This is where new members of the Cool Blogs community can get familiar with the system; it’s also part of the release and change management regime for updating the site. Any updates to the blogging software, the underlying OS and application or even to the look, feel and behaviour of the site are tested internally first.

[It’s probably worth noting that this is a highly recommended best practice; everyone reading this should be going through some form of change control for any updates. I’ll not ask for a show of hands – it may shame a few of you!]

The external facing blog is available to you – our readers and community. This is where all of the live content is created and posted – and where we integrate a lot of Novells security and traffic management technologies.

The staging and production environments are designed to closely mirror each other; each blog consists of a pair of servers – both running SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 – one for the blog software, one for the database.

After a long search we eventually selected WordPress as the main infrastructure for Cool Blogs. There was no real political decision here – after a lot of testing we found that WordPress met our requirements in terms of platform support, features, extensibility, security – and it happens to be licensed under the GPL.

So CoolBlogs is running on top of WordPress – which consumes PHP, Apache and MySQL as the database. We added another layer of security and lockdown to these servers by deploying Novell AppArmor with some pretty restrictive profiles.

The public facing CoolBlogs service sits in Novells web hosting datacenter and is protected and accelerated by Novell iChain and multiple firewall and intrusion detection services.

The server hardware is good – dual processor, plenty of RAM, fast 1GB interconnects. My goal is to get traffic to these servers to make them work!

One of the most important parts of Cool Blogs was getting the look and feel just right – so it integrates with the wider theme. This was created and tested by the Novell Web team – and I think it looks pretty seamless.

So that’s the overview – WordPress on SLES 9, secured by AppArmor. I’m very happy so far with the solution. In my next post I will describe how we plan to link the Novell Cool Solutions Wiki with this Cool Blogs site to maximise the value of the information shared here.

I am interested to know your experiences – and what else you want to know!

Written at: Salt Lake City, UT while preparing for BrainShare 2006.