Enter Sierra

So, we’re moving to Innovative Interfaces Sierra, hosted at the III server farm in Syracuse, New York.

I will be updating this as we go. [also updated 2017.1.23]


We were notified that our aging III “turnkey” server, a Sun V240 running Solaris 9 (which hit the upgrade wall at version 2009B and no more upgrades to Millennium or other software were possible), needed an upgrade to our security, or it would jeopardize the campus being able to use credit cards.

I.T. is required to patch or update any servers with a rating of 4 or 5, that are accessible through the internet. The libcat.uafs.edu is one of those servers that needs to be patched or updated. According to the report, our OpenSSL is rated as a #4 and needs to be updated. In addition, “SSLv2 and SSLv3 protocols need to be turned off and the server needs to only use the TLS protocol.” (Is that clear to everyone? Then I don’t need to explain it, good.) There are other minor vulnerabilities at this time.

The catch is that we cannot upgrade due to the age of our software, and we cannot upgrade the software because of our outdated hardware — III is not maintaining a newer version of their software on this platform (Sun V240) on a newer version of Solaris.  This is our second server model since 1999.

So, we have to move on.  We don’t have the programmer(s) to handle an open source system, so we’ve been looking at OCLC or III’s Sierra for a changeover or upgrade for a while now.

Using III’s hosting was not cost-effective for a single server system, as we calculated — we could pay for a server and still get by for less, as long as III handled the service contract.  By moving to Sierra, however, which needs two servers, it then becomes cost-effective for us to have III host our catalog rather than trying to do it ourselves.  We’re not that large a campus, and our I.T. staff is working hard already, so let’s make it easier on them.

III offers the option to either stay with our present name libcat.uafs.edu, which means we would need to keep buying (and often updating) our SSL certificate, or changing to [something].iii.com and letting them deal with the certificate updating.  They are hosting larger campuses already, so they should be doing any needed updates for their more extensive databases already.

Warning: the decision to change to the iii.com domain did not work out – the SSL certificate does not cover us adequately. We are changing back to libcat.uafs.edu in spring 2017 and adding the WAM replace function along with an SSL certificate.

We’re also going to avoid the hassles of backup for the server (on little tape cartridges all these years) and let III start to do all of that.  Again, something else our I.T. staff won’t have to deal with anymore.  They didn’t have people to do backups on weekends and holidays anyway.

Fortunately, most of the computer workstations were updated when we moved into the expanded building, so the processors are fast enough with sufficient memory and such.

Our newest professional staff member has worked with Sierra before and is happy we’re moving to it, so we have an insider already who’s been through the conversion before.

Sierra is the future for III, and will be where they are concentrating their updating, so this was pretty much inevitable if we stayed with III.  At this time, we’re not ready to change to OCLC (as they presently exist) or another system.

First Teleconference

June 16: We had a teleconference with the III people handling things at their end, plus librarians and an I.T. representative at our end.

I asked them about going with the iii.com URL which, it turned out, they had already set.  Since we’re going to have to change all the I.P. addresses anyway, we want to update the name to uafs.iii.com .  They got a little ahead of us and created warkc.iii.com (based on our old name, since we started with them as Westark College).  We’ve asked to change to uafs to make it less confusing; we’ll see if they can manage that.

We did get the new I.P. address for our application server.  We go through that to a database server.

The sequence for us will be:

  1. Move to the hosted servers in Syracuse, N.Y. with our existing 2009B version of Millennium.  We’ll change the Millennium software on staff PCs to the new I.P. (me and maybe I.T.), and the links on the library web pages and databases (another librarian handles that) will go through the new hosted system.  I’ll need to change all the 856 links using libcat.uafs.edu to our new URL (whichever it ends up being).  This is set for July 7.
  2. Upgrade to version 2011, which is the closest version of Millennium that can convert to Sierra (no use upgrading more than that since we’re moving to Sierra at the end of it, anyway).  Do a quick bit of testing on that.  This is set for July 9.
  3. Sierra will be “seeded” and then we’ll be able to access the Preview version of that.  It should be ready by July 14.
  4. While on Preview, we’ll get the permissions and such set up for the staff along with installing the SDA (Sierra Desktop Application).  We’ll then have both Millennium and Sierra software for a bit.  Actual access will be read-only while any real work is still done in Millennium.
  5. We’ll go live on Sierra full time and use only that.  That will be July 28.

Since we’re relatively small, our down times for the changes should be only a couple of hours.  This will be during Summer II, which is a really thin semester, so it shouldn’t be a huge problem.

The time frames were expressed as normally being longer than we really need.  Since all this is being done on the hosted servers, I think it’s actually simpler and faster than having to deal with us remotely on local servers.  (On the other hand, people in California are dealing with servers in New York, if you consider that “local” for them.)  So our dates are somewhat compacted, which will get us in shape well before Fall classes begin on August 17.


III is using Basecamp for project management software.  We’ve gotten invitations (June 18) and I’ve logged in.  The interface looks nice.

I had already read the Sierra preparation information and created our circulation Statistical groups, so that’s done.  The other thing to do seems to be at III’s end: opening ports on the Sierra server.  I’d sent info on that to our I.T. people in an earlier email so they can see it’s not their problem at our end (III just gave a manual reference).

uafs or uasf?

Well, after a slight glitch, III switched us to uafs.iii.com.  I didn’t think about the fact that it also meant that their help software, CS-Direct, needed to change our login from the old warkc to uafs but apparently that is synced to make it easier to keep track.  Which happens to be the reason we wanted it changed to match our current acronym rather than the old one for Westark College (which we haven’t been since 2002).

So, I got an email that our new login would be uasf.  That’s right — the last two letters transposed.  And it wasn’t just a typo in the email; that was the actual login.  So I gently asked if that was intentional (maybe “uafs” was taken already by somebody?).  No, it was a typo in the setup and would be corrected  (and was, promptly).

I told the coordinator that I was glad, as I hadn’t been looking forward to telling the Chancellor we had to change the campus to “University of Arkansas – San Francisco”. >;-)

So we are now going to be (correctly) using uafs.iii.com for our URL.  Progress!

Our webmaster/database librarian is getting the word out to vendors on our new I.P. address, which many of them may just add as another option to our access.

The next big milestone at our end is probably going to be the migration to the hosted servers on July 7.  While that’s going on (about 2 hours, they figure), we’ll need to go around to all the staff workstations and append the IP address to the properties in the Millennium icon to redirect it.  Then we restart by connecting to the hosted server in Syracuse, and we should be back in business, still on release 2009B.  On the 9th, we upgrade to the 2011 release.


I mentioned that our campus I.T. people wanted us to upgrade somehow due to security.  It turns out that they’ve had a security outfit called Qualys scanning campus systems as part of this.

And we’ve been getting “all ports in use” ever more frequently.  This has been going on for months, but it seems to be stepping up this year.

Finally III managed to track down a group of I.P. addresses that seem to come from this company, which I then asked I.T. about.  Oh yeah, we have them scanning you for the security, I was told.  We just didn’t tell you before.

Well, that might explain at least some of the resources being tied up.  Since our system is not going to change before we finally leave it, I asked if we could get off the scan, as it seemed to be overloading us often.  That’s been done.  So far, no more “all ports in use” messages.

Once we can confidently say we’re on the hosted server and tested okay, we can shut down the old local libcat.uafs.edu server and take it and its outdated security off the campus network.  That solves I.T.s security standards problem.

Preparations for web pages

We have a campus home web page and related pages, on a campus server.  This links to our III server.  Those pages will need to be updated immediately after we migrate to the hosted server.  Our webmaster will be busy with those for a bit.

I’ve gone through the other web pages which are still on the old server.  Updating these is a little easier, as instead of libcat.uafs.edu/screens/whatever.html, I can reduce the link to /screens/whatever.html and the server will search for the page on itself, whether local or hosted.

So, making that change to most of the links leaves only a few pages to fix after the migration.  I have those marked on my printout so I can head straight for them ASAP.

Migration Day, July 7

So, it’s the big day to switch to the server in Syracuse.  I’m told it will take 2 to 3 hours, perhaps more.  We’ll end up with the same thing we have now, only running on a different server.

There’s a notice on the library home page that access to databases and the catalog will be down for several hours.  It’s the start of the Summer II semester, which is about as slow as it is likely to get during an actual semester.

While this is ongoing, I’ll be going around and changing the command line in everyone’s Millennium:

C:\Millennium\iiirunner.exe ip=our new IP address

By adding the IP address to the command line in Properties, we connect there without having to remove and reinstall Millennium everywhere.

That’s not all — we have to change the Export option in OCLC Connexion to the new IP address as well, for everyone that has that, which is a smaller group.

Once we’re back up, I have the last few web pages to update.

Following migration, July 8

Well, that could have gone a little smoother, frankly.  But we have Millennium up again.  However…

We took longer to get it done (we didn’t get the original time frame from an engineer, for one thing).  Also, the fact that we had a reference database (originally called a community information database) may have been overlooked by the other project people.  That was extra work for III.

The problem now is that the Web Access Manager is still not functioning.  If we delete the “0-” and “libcat.uafs.edu” from the URLs, we can reach databases on campus.  However, substituting “uafs.iii.com” in there still doesn’t work… yet.  That’s a project for the engineer to fix today, and then we’ll be beck.  (Sorry – “back” — my Terminator accent kicked in.)

This is apparently due to changing the domain completely to uafs.iii.com which actually means more work at this point, even though it leaves us less vulnerable to problems later.  Apparently most places just alias their old address to redirect over to the new one, whereas we wanted to go directly to it from everywhere.  That sames a micro-second on connecting and having to go through other computers to disguise the new address with a redirect, so technically it was the better way to handle it.  It’s more effort up front for the engineer, however.

While that means that changes elsewhere (say on campus servers) in the future won’t “forget” to include that alias kludge and have to be fixed if/when they occur, right now III is trying to get all the old libcat references changed over, and something connected to the proxy server (WAM) is not correct yet.

The engineer was working late last night and planned to come in early this morning (California time), so we’re hoping his dedication will pay off shortly.

We still have a software upgrade to 2011 Millennium scheduled for Thursday morning, so I’m hoping we get this all straightened out today.

Thursday July 9

The upgrade to version 2011 has been postponed to Friday.  III’s decision.

The engineer was scheduled to work on another library yesterday, so couldn’t clear everything up from the migration, but we did have the databases up again for the most part.  The new address needed to propagate through all the DNS servers for the various vendors, apparently.  Our serials librarian will be checking all that.  So, good for that.

Also, we had some odd glitches with the CSS, but that has been tracked down and resolved for the most part, so things display more or less properly now.

We still get a “server not responding” error when we try to log into our reference database.  That’s going to take a bit of tweaking by III, I suspect.

Yesterday I began the 856 URL change for ebooks, etc., in the catalog.  The WAM needs the libcat.uafs.edu changed to uafs.iii.com in all those links that have it go through the proxy server, so I’m doing those in 10,000 record chunks at a time.  I don’t bother to select or sort — I just look for that in the 856 and pull up another batch of records.  If somebody needs a specific one I haven’t done yet, I can nip in and fix it individually, but it’s pretty quiet right now, so I’m just plowing along.  I probably can’t do them all right away; the transactions file would fill up.  But I can do a good number of them daily.

We also have to go through our LibGuides and update any catalog links.  I got mine done pretty quickly.

We are having email problems with overdues, and courtesy notices — they don’t seem to be going out.  III is working on it.

July 10, Friday

III is still working on the overdues/courtesy notices email problem.  The hosted server cannot print directly to the printer that used to handle server stuff, but works fine when we select “local printer” and designate it.  (No, most of us don’t have attached printers, it’s a cost-effectiveness thing for campus I.T.) So we have that working, but all the notices print because they can’t send them via email.  Fixing that is now a priority.

We don’t have Web reports, either, but that’s a Java thing.  And thereby hangs another tale…

We have SCT Banner for the campus management system.  We must use Banner.  The catch is, SCT is behind on updating Banner for use with the latest version of Java.  Therefore everyone gets “outdated” notices on Java, and has to be blocked from updating themselves to a newer version of Java that won’t run Banner.  Follow so far?

Millennium also runs on Java, and we have to deal with I.T. on letting us run a separate Java for that regardless of the other Java on each workstation.  That’s a long-standing conflict here.  I’m not too concerned about that until we move to the 2011 Millennium, frankly, as I’d rather not deal with that all over again for a newer version.  It might resolve with the upgrade.

I’m waiting to find out if we have the 2011 upgrade delayed on account of the email issue or not.  Oh, it seems not.  III hopes the email problem may be resolved by the upgrade, so we’re going ahead, and a half-hour early at that, at 9:30 instead of 10.

Well the upgrade was quick.  But the email problem was not fixed, and we still cannot get to our reference database through Millennium.

I notice that Chrome does not load the Java for Web Management Reports but IE does.  Go figure.  As long as we can get to it somehow, I’ll settle for now.

Monday July 13

III kept working Friday after we went home here (thanks to time zone differences) and solved the email problem.  So hurrah for that.  The engineer is still working on the reference database, but that’s not quite as urgent.

III still shows Sierra Preview scheduled for tomorrow.  Whoa!  They did it early.

Next post will be “Sierra Preview“.