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You are here: Home Blogs Community Summer internship wrapup: Andrew Cabey, FSF sysadmin intern

Summer internship wrapup: Andrew Cabey, FSF sysadmin intern

by Andrew Cabey Contributions Published on Aug 16, 2017 12:32 PM
With my summer internship coming to a close and new days on the horizon, I'd like to share about my experiences as a systems administration intern at the FSF.

With my summer internship coming to a close and new days on the horizon, I'd like to share about my experiences as a systems administration intern at the FSF. Over the last twelve weeks, I've been immersed in a professional environment where I've had the opportunity to face the challenges of communication and cooperation across teams, concentrations and organizations. I've worked with a unique group of people in a close-knit office environment, and I've been exposed first-hand to enterprise technologies. Finally, I've been given an incredible opportunity to take part in a long-term project and see the result of nearly 18 months of research and development.

The Free Software Foundation, as an organization founded on activism, fosters and empowers an activist culture across all domains. In this open atmosphere of free thought, the FSF creates a comfortable environment for its employees and attracts insightful, forward thinkers. It was a pleasure working with such a welcoming and passionate group of individuals.

I came into my internship with the broad focus of cyber-security. Since this is a "focus" that treads across nearly every aspect of technology, though, it was soon narrowed down to two primary goals, the encryption schema of the GNU server cluster and an audit of existing infrastructure. As a member of the systems administration team, I was exposed to a variety of new technologies, including a performant libvirt virtualization stack backed by a solid-state Ceph distributed storage cluster; a partially oxymoronic transparent and air-tight security model; and free software from the BIOS to the user interface. I am lucky to have been involved in the challenge that is building one of the first systems of such high-scale performance and security demands from entirely free software.

Having set ambitious timeline goals early on, I was soon faced with the reality of seemingly unending technical and logistical challenges to overcome: one of the surprises I faced in my internship was how easily time can slip away, whether through unforeseen difficulties or through sunk-cost expenditure. While struggling to make progress is frustrating, this has taught me an important lesson in project planning and management, and I am privileged to have seen the project's finale in deployment.

During my time here, I helped in the design of the GNU server stack's encryption schema, and I wrote tools to benchmark the performance of this system. I also contributed to free software security projects, and then used these tools to conduct an audit of deployed FSF services.

I would like to give a special thanks to Ruben, Ian, and Andrew for having taken their time over the past three months to act as mentors for no benefit but my own; their technical expertise and dedication to the FSF is thoroughly appreciated.

Going forward, I will be in Boston studying computer science and cyber-operations at Northeastern University. If you want to contact me, you can find me on freenode as acabey, or if you prefer email I can be reached at acabey@gnu.org with GPG key fingerprint A320 41B2 D62F 34DB 505F 84DF A843 2CD3 6C24 E504.

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