Services > Email > Email Upgrades > Email service - Technical Details

Email service - Technical Details

Why was a change necessary?

  • Hardware
All messages sent into, out of and around WHOI must pass through a Silicon Graphics Challenge S machine (locked into Irix 6.2), mail.whoi.edu. This machine was first installed about six years ago when the number of messages sent, received and saved by the WHOI community was much smaller. This growth, coupled with an increase in the size of the typical message, has resulted in decreased responsiveness of the overall system despite additional servers (mail2 and mail3) that have been added to assist the original one. The best solution was to remove the original email server completely.
  • Software
The email software we are currently using, Netscape SuiteSpot v.3.x is no longer supported, limiting CIS's ability to maintain a secure and reliable email system.

How are the new mail servers configured?

There are two Sun Microsystems dual processor systems which are configured as IMAP servers ("mailboxes") to store your email messages. Each server has large amount of memory and disk storage and multiple features to protect against problems due to hardware failures. During normal operations each server will provide mail to about 1/2 of the Institution, but either could take over the entire load if necessary. In addition there are two Linux servers ("mail sorters") which alternately have the task of sending and receiving new messages, although either could do the job alone should the other fail.

Based on the server names, don't you have 26 new mail servers?

We chose the naming convention to allow us greater flexibility in future upgrades without needing to change client settings. Each of the 26 names mail?.whoi.edu (where ? is the first letter of the account username) is an alias referring to one of the two Sun Microsystems computers used as IMAP servers. By utilizing aliases, the hardware storing the email messages can be changed without anyone noticing. It also means that if one of the mail server computers needs maintenance all of its accounts can be quickly redirected to another one. If additional servers are needed to share the load, they can be added transparently as needed.

By the way, the outbox.whoi.edu name is also an alias and it refers to the computer systems assigned to process new mail messages, currently the 2 Linux systems mentioned above. We are using Round Robin DNS coupled with a short TTL on the DNS entries to alternate between the two computers.

You said IMAP clients will work, but can I continue to use POP instead of IMAP?

Yes, we have verified that POP will work with the new systems. If you need to have all of your new messages downloaded to your local computer when you connect to the email server, then you prefer POP. If you do not require this feature, we prefer that you use the IMAP setting.