Wandering Thoughts archives


I'm cautiously optimistic about the new OmniOS Community Edition

You may recall that back in April, OmniTI suspended active development of OmniOS, leaving its future in some doubt and causing me to wonder what we'd do about our current generation of fileservers. There was a certain amount of back and forth on the OmniOS mailing list, but in general nothing concrete happened about, say, updates to the current OmniOS release, and people started to get nervous. Then just over a week ago, the OmniOS Community Edition was announced, complete with OmniOSCE.org. Since then, they've already released one weekly update (r151022i) with various fixes.

All of this leaves me cautiously optimistic for our moderate term needs, where we basically need a replacement for OmniOS r151014 (the previous LTS release) that gets security updates. I'm optimistic for the obvious reason, which is that things are really happening here; I'm cautious because maintaining a distribution of anything is a bunch of work over time and it's easy to burn out people doing it. I'm hopeful that the initial people behind OmniOS CE will be able to get more people to help and spread the load out, making it more viable over the months to come.

(I won't be one of the people helping, for previously discussed reasons.)

We're probably not in a rush to try to update from r151014 to the OmniOS CE version of r151022. Building out a new version of OmniOS and testing it takes a bunch of effort, the process of deployment is disruptive, and there's probably no point in doing too much of that work until the moderate term situation with OmniOS CE is clearer. For a start, it's not clear to me if OmniOS CE r151022 will receive long-term security updates or if users will be expected to move to r151024 when it's released (and I suppose I should ask).

For our longer term needs, ie the next generation of fileservers, a lot of things are up in the air. If we move to smaller fileservers we will probably move to directly attached disks, which means we now care about SAS driver support, and in general there's been the big question of good Illumos support for 10G-T Ethernet hardware (which I believe is still not there today for Intel 10G-T cards, or at least I haven't really seen any big update to the ixgbe driver). What will happen with OmniOS CE over the longer term is merely one of the issues in play; it may turn out to be important, or it may turn out to be irrelevant because our decision is forced by other things.

solaris/OmniOSCECautiousOptimism written at 23:47:29; Add Comment

HTTPS is a legacy protocol

Ted Unangst recently wrote moving to https (via), in which he gave us the following (in his usual inimitable style):

On the security front, however, there may be a few things to mention. Curiously, some browsers react to the addition of encryption to a website by issuing a security warning. Yesterday, reading this page in plaintext was perfectly fine, but today, add some AES to the mix, and it’s a terrible menace, unfit for even casual viewing. But fill out the right forms and ask the right people and we can fix that, right?

(You may have trouble reading Ted's post, especially on mobile devices.)

One way to look at this situation is to observe that HTTPS today is a legacy protocol, much like every other widely deployed Internet protocol. Every widely deployed protocol, HTTPS included, is at least somewhat old (because it takes time to get widely deployed), and that means that they're all encrusted with at least some old decisions that we're now stuck with in the name of backwards compatibility. What we end up with is almost never what people would design if they were to develop these protocols from scratch today.

A modern version of HTTP(S) would probably be encrypted from the start regardless of whether the web site had a certificate, as encryption has become much more important today. This isn't just because we're in a post-Snowden world; it's also because today's Internet has become a place full of creepy ad-driven surveillance and privacy invasion, where ISPs are one of your enemies. When semi-passive eavesdroppers are demonstrably more or less everywhere, pervasive encryption is a priority for a whole bunch of people for all sorts of reasons, both for privacy and for integrity of what gets transferred.

But here on the legacy web, our only path to encryption is with HTTPS, and HTTPS comes with encryption tightly coupled to web site authentication. In theory you could split them apart by fiat with browser and web server cooperation (eg); in practice there's a chicken and egg problem with how old and new browsers interact with various sorts of sites, and how users and various sorts of middleware software expect HTTP and HTTPS links and traffic to behave. At this point there may not be any way out of the tangle of history and people's expectations. That HTTPS is a legacy protocol means that we're kind of stuck with some things that are less than ideal, including this one.

(I don't know what the initial HTTPS and SSL threat model was, but I suspect that the Netscape people involved didn't foresee anything close to the modern web environment we've wound up with.)

So in short, we're stuck with a situation where adding some AES to your website does indeed involve making it into a horrible menace unless you ask the right people. This isn't because it's particularly sensible; it's because that's how things evolved, for better or worse. We can mock the silliness of the result if we want to (although every legacy protocol has issues like this), but the only real way to do better is to destroy backwards compatibility. Some people are broadly fine with this sort of move, but a lot of people aren't, and it's very hard to pull off successfully in a diverse ecology where no single party has strong control.

(It's not useless to point out the absurdity yet again, not exactly, but it is shooting well-known fish in a barrel. This is not a new issue and, as mentioned, it's not likely that it's ever going to be fixed. But Ted Unangst does write entertaining rants.)

web/HTTPSLegacyProtocol written at 00:30:53; Add Comment

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