Frequently Asked Questions: About the SRCF
What is the SRCF?
The SRCF is the University of Cambridge's Student-Run Computing Facility. We provide web hosting, shell accounts and various other computing services to members of the University and groups such as University societies. We are a University society, registered with the Societies Syndicate. As such we are not formally supported by the University Administration in any way; instead the service is maintained by a group of volunteers.
Who are the SRCF?
The SRCF executive — the committee and sysadmin (system administration) team — consists of current and former University of Cambridge students. We hold elections for the committee positions every year at our AGM, according to our constitution. Any member of the University (staff or student) can register to become a lifetime member of the SRCF, and so use our services. We do not charge any membership fees, or require anything from our members beyond that they abide by our Terms of Service.
Why does the SRCF exist?
The SRCF was formed in 1999 to provide services which the University Administration could not, including web hosting, mailing lists, and other computing resources for student societies. Nowadays, the UIS and many external hosting providers also offer similar services, but none provide as many features at no cost as the SRCF.
Our sysadmins volunteer due to their interest in the GNU/Linux operating system and related software, current server technologies, and to gain valuable experience administering large, multi-user, networked systems. The SRCF also effectively functions as the Linux Users Group (LUG) of the University.
What sort of systems do you run?
We maintain and manage all of our own hardware (physically located in Cambridge) and software. We primarily use Ubuntu Linux as it is free (in all senses), stable and relatively easy to maintain.
The SRCF's primary server, pip, is our shell server, and hosts our users' home directories and email. It has two six-core 2.1GHz Intel Xeon E5-2620 CPUs with 64GB of RAM and four 4TB SATA disks. This is currently running Ubuntu 16.04 (xenial) (we normally upgrade once every year or two, in the summer).
Most of our other services run on our virtualised cloud known as thunder. This comprises a half-dozen assorted physical servers running the free version of XenServer and a back-end storage server, alto. Several of these machines were graciously donated by Third Light Ltd. and Peterhouse.
Virtual machines in public service include:
- sinkhole: web (Apache) and PostgreSQL server
- squirrel: MySQL database server
- cavein: long-running resource-hungry services, e.g. game servers
- blizzard: authoritative DNS (and DNSSEC) server
- flame: Usenet (NNTP) server
- flood: IRC (Internet Relay Chat) server
Until 2006 we had just one server in use, kern (a dual Athlon 1.6GHz PC with 2GB of RAM and 400GB of disk). Before that we used to run on an ancient Intel Pentium running at 166MHz with 128MB of RAM. How times have changed :)
You guys are doing a great job. How can I help you out?
We always welcome donations — as we don't charge for our services, it's the only way we can afford to buy new hardware to keep up with the demand. If you want to make a donation, please visit this page and it'll tell you what to do.
If you want to donate some time and experience to help us out, then why not join our support team? This is an email-based help list for problems not requiring administrative access to the SRCF server. If you have experience of using a website or other services on the SRCF, and want to help out, then send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the list. Many thanks in advance to all who volunteer!
We are also always recruiting new sysadmins. If you have experience administering Linux systems, or are willing to learn, please send an email to the committee at email@example.com. We will invite you to meet the sysadmin team in person, and discuss where you can help out.
How many users do you have?
There are currently 1838 users (members with active shell accounts).
How many members do you have?
There are currently 9529 members of the society (membership is for life).
How many societies do you host?
We currently host 1938 society accounts, of which 1177 are no longer maintained.