Sympl 11 is coming!

Debian are expected to release their next version, ‘Bullseye’, in the next few months, with it already in bugfix mode, so to get head of things (like with Debian Buster), there’s already a testing release of Sympl for Bullseye.

All the features are there, with a few reasonably small changes, most notably:

  • Exim configuration has been updated to the new Exim 4.94 which includes a fair number of changes behind the scenes to improve security.
  • The Apache VHost mod which was used by the mass hosting configuration in Symbiosis has been retired, as it’s not been needed for some time.
  • Webalizer which is no longer in the Debian distro, has been replaced by a fork of it, named AWFFull
  • Removed mentions of the deprecated php-mcrypt package as well as the old symbiosis packages, with dependencies being tidied up a little.

As well as this, there’s a new testing suite being built, which will ensure compatibility is retained both forward and backward, testing each function end-to-end to ensure releases are consistent and nothing is obviously broken before it reaches the testing branch from the new ‘unstable’ development branch.

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Will upgrade from Buster to Bullseye be possible? Or will it be a question of migrating sites to Bullseye in slow time?

Short version: It’s possible but not something we can support at the moment.

Longer version: If you did want to upgrade, you’d theoretically be able to do a normal dist-upgrade then upgrade the Sympl packages, but you may well end up with issues from old packages or config files still around.

It’s very difficult to support a configuration that’s been upgraded one or more times without significant sample data to identify any issues, so you may end up with unusual bugs.

There’s a new automated testing suite being built, so that should be able to run full end-to-end testing in a number of scenarios, including upgrades, so it may be something that we could support in the future, but with it being so easy to migrate to another server, it’s fairly low on the list.

In what sense is it easy? Does that mean the file system layout hasn’t changed, so the /srv tree can just be copied from old to new server?

That’s correct - configuration for each ‘version’ of Sympl is effectively the same, with the only difference being the underlying version of Debian, with new functionality back-ported to older versions, so as long as you keep up with Debian (with updates every 2 years and support for 5 or so) you should be fine.

It really isn’t easy to migrate to another server if you have literally dozens of live sites on which people’s livelihoods depend.

Yes, it is almost trivially easy to migrate to a different server, as long as you have a different server to migrate to.

But either you need to migrate everything twice or you need to mess with DNS and IP addresses.
Otherwise, the sites are all down.

A simple dist-upgrade would be vastly preferable. Please give it a bit of priority!

I seem to remember you’ve followed my recommendation of Bitfolk - they will let you have a new VPS in parallel with your old one for a couple of weeks for migration at no extra charge, and then remove the old one from your billing account.

Upgrading in place is all very well, but the risk of something going wrong and downing all your live sites at once is quite scary.

My last server migration didn’t involve much downtime per domain (mostly seamless), but I had to move one domain at a time and as I was going from Virtualmin to Sympl there was a lot to do (and to learn!). This time should be a bit easier and quicker, though I still can’t say I’m totally looking forward to it.

Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to migrate one site at a time unless you are only moving once. And I really can’t afford the cost of a new server of the power I have already.
So I would have to migrate everyone to a different server, then upgrade the production server and then migrate them back.
I did this to move from Symbiosis to Sympl and upgrade Debian. It was not a great experience, although not actually difficult, apart from resolving DNS issues.
Moving the /srv directory is not a big deal, but there are also the databases to deal with.
I think the only sane approach would be to back up the sites onto a different server, but not set them working there. Just leave the DNS as it is.
Then update the server and move the sites back. Hopefully this would not take very long, because the sites and the email would be down for the duration.
If the update goes pear-shaped, I’d simply restore the latest backup.
It would be so much easier to upgrade in place with a dist-upgrade.

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I can’t make any promises, but once Bullseye is released, I’ll look into the best way to do an in-place upgrade.

This would likely involve temporarily removing Sympl, doing a dist-upgrade or similar and then re-installing Sympl - the main thing would be ensuring there are no conflicting packages in the end result (eg: things like old versions of PHP still enabled), so it is practically identical to a clean install as that’s reasonably complicated and you can’t miss anything else which may affect it.