Using Shibboleth with nginx

Unlike Apache, nginx does not have a module like mod_shib interacting directly with Shibboleth daemon shibd. I will use a module ngx_http_shibboleth_module, which uses FastCGI protocol to talk to Shibboleth daemon through sockets. Shibboleth comes with two FastCGI modules:

  • FastCGI responder (shibresponder) that handles the HandlerURL
  • FastCGI authorizer (shibauthorizer) that acts as a filter and does the usual (authN, export assertions and authZ).

Of course, these modules have to be running alongside the shibd daemon. Let’s start with Shibboleth setup and configuration. I used Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial) for the setup described in the article, but it can be easily ported to other versions of Linux.

There are some guides around on how to get such configuration working, but all of them seem to be missing one or more crucial steps. This is the drawback which I tried to remedy with this article.

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A simple powershell script to restore from a snapshot for a Windows EC2 instance (single volume)

For those of us who are accustomed to the “revert to snapshot” function in a VMware environment, it is quite a challenge to do the same on AWS.  The problem comes from the fact that you can’t manipulate the volume itself most of the time, and restoring basically means replacing the currently mounted volume of the instance.  Here’s a script I wrote for a group discussion we had here at TCG (Technology Consulting Group) to  simplify the restore process.
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Carbon black custom rules


Bit9, now called Carbon Black (Cb) Protection Enterprise is a utility that will intentionally block any application that has not been authorized to execute on the system. Carbon Black protection is a tool for whitelisting, and allows the creation of rules to control file executions on monitored systems.  Stanford University IT is actively working on implementing Carbon black Protection in our  environment.  This is an additional security tool along with Firewalls and  anti-virus applications.


Carbon black works by continuously monitoring all file system activities happening on the server  and provides a real-time response and blocks potential threats. We can whitelist applications by creating event rules and custom rules, and in this article we will be elaborating on best practices for creating custom rules, and why and when we need them.
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Databases in the Cloud?

by Leroy Altman

You’ve probably already heard about “Cloud” technology, where a server can be hosted for you at some remote location.  Did you know that the Cloud has more than just servers?  You can also get a very easy-to-use database.  Amazon — yes, the same ones that sell you books and BBQ grills — has a service called Amazon Web Services (AWS).  And within this service is something they call Relational Database Services (RDS).  This means that you can have a Microsoft SQL database without having to bother with all the hassle of running a database server.

The cool part is that everything is done behind-the-scenes for you.  You simply need to provision a database and Amazon RDS takes care of the rest of the technical details.   You get a database username, a password and a URL to connect to.  With this information your application “sees” and uses it just as if it was a regular Microsoft SQL server.
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What’s New in Windows Server 2016

Windows Server 2016 is the latest server operating system from Microsoft. It’s packed with new modern features that are designed for virtualization and the cloud while there are significant improvement in networking, security, storage and management. These new features (or feature improvements) will help take your organization’s infrastructure to the next level whether it is on premise, hybrid, or 100% in the cloud.

Some of the top new features that would most likely be affecting most organizations include the following:
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Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI)

The traditional data center, or server rack, consists of a combination of: compute servers, storage appliances, and networking equipment. Each piece of the stack is its own entity, or known as “silos”, and usually require a separate team to maintain the stack. So what happens when one of these entities fail? It usually involves a data center “fire” and tons of downtime. So how can we consolidate these silos and create a resilient and highly available data center? Hyperconverged infrastructure may be a potential solution we are looking for! (depending on your requirements, that is…)

Hyperconverged infrastructures combine compute nodes, storage, and networking into a bundled solution that create highly available and scalable clusters. This allows for elasticity, easy, and rapid growth of equipment. The servers usually contain a hybrid setup of flash (SSD) caching disks, and HDDs, although recently providing all flash/SSD configurations. Management traffic and data traffic is intelligently routed amongst the switch to avoid performance hits and bottlenecks within the cluster.
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Built To Scale

by Allan Holtzmann

Cloud Architecture on a Budget

We have all heard repeatedly about the “cloud”, and how it can do amazing things for our IT efforts, reliability, and budget. Unfortunately, the details on how to accomplish improvements in all three areas are often sparse. It is easy enough to migrate your website to a cloud platform, but making your website resilient, reliable, and cost-effective at the same time is another matter altogether.
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