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Ease of administration is quite fundamental to the design of ARGON. Running a secure installation of a computer system shouldn't have to be hard, and ARGON is designed so that you administer the cluster as a whole, with nodes only needing attention for matters relating purely to that node.

This page focusses on running an ARGON cluster; as discussed elsewhere it's possible to have single-node ARGON setups too, but they are largely a degenerate case of cluster management; they're a cluster and a node rolled into one.

The view of a junior systems administrator

There's a bunch of servers, desktop machines, laptops, mobile devices and embedded control computers, called a cluster. Your job is to sit at your nice ARGON workstation and pass the time until a little alert pops up that something's gone wrong, whereupon you switch to the cluster status display that the cluster entity presents in its user interface to sufficiently trusted users (a nice map of the network topology joining the systems of the cluster together) and see what's flashing red. You acknowledge the alert, then go and look at the node or network link that's in trouble, and repair or replace it. Sometimes one of the nodes is just plain broken, in which case you tell the cluster to forget about it since it's not coming back. Sometimes you get new nodes to add, in which case you have to ask your workstation to prepare an installation image on a USB key, and go and boot the new node from it. After answering a few questions about network setup (unless you're using DHCP), selecting the roles it will perform, and confirming that it's OK to reformat the entire disk, it sits there for a while talking to the other nodes to get up to date, then a new node appears on your cluster status display.

The other source of work is users. Sometimes, new users have to be created. You browse to the "Users" container entity in your cluster (you might have more than one, if you have a large and complex user base) and choose "Create New" then select "User". Give them a name and a password, then head over to the access control database and assign them to some groups. And sometimes you delete users, too. Deleting the user's entity also deletes all their private entities within it.

As usual, most of your time will be spent dealing with broken equipment and clueless users. Hopefully, ARGON just gets out of your way and automates everything it can.

A senior systems administrator

You have a nice cluster, with a few junior sysadmins to keep everything up and running. And you have users, who want to store lots of entities in your nice cluster.

Your job is to decide how to do it.

You create high-level administrative subdivisions called volumes within the cluster, by browsing to the cluster entity and telling it to do so. There's a "Cluster Volume" already waiting for you when the system is installed, containing an entity for the cluster itself; and an entity representing the cluster volume. And there's a volume correspoding to each node, representing entities which are only available on that one node, which contains the node's own administrative entity.

You create volumes with names like "Management Users", "Shop Floor Users", "Customers", and the like. You grant permission to create entities in these volumes to your underlings. You create a CARBON directory in the cluster volume and start to put links to useful entities that your users will need into it, which become available as starting points to users browsing from machines in your cluster. You tell it which nodes are on the same LAN as each other, and then how those LANs are joined, so it can more efficiently route its group communications. You tell it which nodes are trusted with classified information, and which aren't. You monitor system load across the cluster, and alter the settings on volumes to trade off availability, performance, and resource utilisation, and order new nodes whenever you need more storage or processing capacity.

As usual, most of your time will be spent dealing with internal politics, budget battles and clueless suppliers. Hopefully, ARGON just gets out of your way and automates everything it can.