Sea Test Base: the connected underwater observatory is now built on So you Start servers
Making the Brittany seabeds available on the internet is the challenge that Sea Test Base has risen to. This connected maritime platform project - set up by engineering students of ISEN Brest - was originally deployed on Kimsufi servers before being migrated to So you Start machines for the value for money and performance.
On their agenda for upgrade: migration to a more powerful server to enrich the features available to users of the underwater test platform.
This project, located on the Crozon Peninsula, was born of an association of businesses looking to share resources across the whole of Brittany to carry out offshore testing.** And the objective? Developing business applications to monitor marine parks and marine energy production sites. "The technologies deployed on the pontoon can be used for impact studies or to analyse sites prior to installing major infrastructures," explain Yves Auffret, lecturer and researcher atISEN-Brest, specialising in digital electronics and marine instrumentation, and head of R&D at Sea Test Base. "Taking measurements and recording data offshore is complex and costly. Various users need to connect instruments over long periods of time, to monitor from their offices and activate and manage the sensors remotely. With Sea Test Base, we offer a permanent connection to onboard instruments and users are free to develop their systems remotely. Another advantage is the possibility of downloading code directly on the microprocessors or microcontrollers integrated into the offshore instruments. In concrete terms, Sea Test Base consists of a land base (offices, warehouses, workshops and sea means) and a sea platform located 1.1 kilometres from the shore. This instrumented pontoon is the core of the submarine observatory. It's equipped for testing and approving all sorts of marine and submarine systems, including sensors, instruments, robots and autonomous underwater vehicles.
Within this framework ISEN-Brest offered and implemented a communication infrastructure which is simultaneously onshore, offshore, submarine and air based, and an information system based on a Machine to Machine (M2M) architecture, to enable remote access to onboard instruments and data collected by the pontoon.
The hardware: a Kimsufi to get started
Every year, Yves Auffret gets students involved in the project. In 2013, it was Aurélien Godard and Adrien Jeannerot who designed and deployed the IT infrastructure of Sea Test Base. "All the infrastructure is hosted by OVH in Roubaix and Gravelines. Initially, we didn't want to manage the physical side in order to reduce the costs of IT maintenance and travelling between Brest and the base. Then we needed reliable hardware at the best price. As a non-profit association, we have severe budget constraints," explains Aurélien. "So we started with an OVH server of the Kimsufi brand which met our criteria perfectly."
Aurélien and Adrien have hosted the association website on their Kimsufi server, along with the ERP that groups all the internal services together, the monitoring, cartography and video surveillance system, and lastly the meteorological data. "Various people, such as visitors, customers and administrators can log in to Sea Test Base and access the different services according to their access permission," Adrien explains. "So we chose to virtualise using Proxmox and OpenVZ and to isolate the services by placing each one in a virtual machine (VM)."
Finally, the future engineers chose to set up a VPN to connect their server to Sea Test Base to ensure total security, which is essential for accessing the robot interface that controls the other instruments (for example, for shutting down or activating a sensor).
A VPS to host the surveillance system for the entire platform completes the architecture. And other OVH services are also used: domain names, Exchange email accounts, ADSL and VoIP "all tested and reviewed prior to putting them into operation on Sea Test Base", the students add.
"This initial infrastructure enabled us to scale up," Yves Auffret with Kimsufi. "Our goal is to be able to move to a higher level so as to have more instrumentation and extend the network to cover the whole southern part of Brest harbour."
As part of the works carried out in 2013 by Sea Test Base, Thales and ECA-Robotics were able to experiment with data transmissions and underwater images via ASEMAR, the civil AUV3 (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle), which is destined for monitoring maritime zones and research on underwater objects.
Migration to a So you Start machine
One year after the Sea Test Base project's launch, the interest of businesses involved (see box) has been confirmed. In order to meet the demand, several improvements are needed, including on the IT infrastructure. Yves Auffret has entrusted this new mission to Gaëtan Enez and Yann-Etienne Prigent, who are both engineering students at ISEN-Brest.
The diagnostic was fast: Sea Test Base was restricted on a Kimsufi. "Our physical server resources were no longer sufficient in terms of both memory and processors," Gaëtan explains. "We compared the So you Start brand servers with the OVH servers, but the machines and prices ofOVH exceeded our needs and our budget. The price/performance ratio and the choice of different server profiles convinced us to take a So you start machine. A key factor for us was storage capacity, so we prioritised disk space with 2 x 2TB over fast SSD disks. We also opted for HardRAID which provides better security if a disk goes down."
"The price/performance ratio and the choice of different server profiles convinced us to take a So you start machine"
The technological choices made from the outset of the project on Kimsufi have been reconfirmed. So the virtualisation using a Proxmox/OpenVZ hypervisor and the allocation and isolation of each service on a VM will be stored on the So you Start server. But even before migrating, Yann-Etienne and Gaëtan decided to make the most of the chance to change the physical machine configuration, with the aim of reinforcing the security and spreading the load between the machines.
"There was previously a port translation to communicate with the various virtual machines. We then installed a reverse proxy to manage traffic according to the URL and to communicate with the corresponding virtual machine locally," said Gaëtan. "We also went from IPv4 to IPv6 to plan for the future with peace of mind. Each IPv6 address has a domain name and corresponds to a VM with its own secure firewall. As a result, the user is redirected back to the machine that hosts the service they want to access. The server serves to route the traffic."
Finally, Gaëtan and Yann-Etienne have also set up a RAID disk monitoring system so they can be proactive if required.
Together with the reworking of the network, which was the other major project of the year, this server upgrade enables us to plan ahead on the development of new services. Notably, the pontoon will be enriched with a HD video camera for studying and conducting underwater vision experiments.
Future developments, the ISEN-Brest teams plans to complement their IT services with Cloud Public Archives for server backup, and "why not a 10 TB hubiC account for the virtual machines (VM)", Yves Auffret concludes.
Watch this space.
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