Containerizing Alfresco

What is Alfresco?

Alfresco is an open source document management system for Microsoft Windows and Unix-like operating systems. It comes in Community and Enterprise editions that are different only in scalability and high availability features. It’s powerful, easy to use and much mature than other open source document management systems. Alfresco is Java based software, Community edition comes bundled with Tomcat application server and uses PostgreSQL database as backend.


The scope here is to containerize Alfresco, the setup will have 2 containers, one for PostgreSQL and another one for Alfresco. The container entry point will detect if Alfresco is not installed and will install it in this case, otherwise it will start the Tomcat server to run Alfresco application. Here I’m relying on Docker compose to run the environment.


– Setup directory hierarchy:
The following is the directory hierarchy for the container folder:

  alfresco/                     Alfresco Docker container folder      Docker entry point for Alfresco container               Configration parameters for Alfresco installation
    Dockerfile                  Dockerfile to build Alfresco container
    alfresco/                   Shared volume for Alfresco
  db_store/                     PostgreSQL Docker container folder
    data/                       Shared volume for PostgreSQL database storage

– On container host: Create group “alfresco” (GID: 888) and user “alfresco” (UID: 888), home directory /opt/alfresco (Alfresco root)

– Login with user “alfresco”
– Move the above hierarchy to the file /opt/alfresco (Available at
– Build the Alfresco container:

$ docker-compose build alfresco

– If SELinux is enabled, run the following command on all shared volumes (Needed to run that on CentOS 7.2, docker 1.9.1):

$ chcon --recursive --type=svirt_sandbox_file_t --range=s0 /path/to/volume

– Copy Alfresco installation file “alfresco-community-installer-201605-linux-x64.bin” to alfresco shared volume:
– Copy the file to alfresco shared volume and change:
To match hostname of the Docker host

– Change hostname as well in docker-compose.yml file (alfresco service):

– Bring the environment up without -d parameter time to make sure it installs everything OK:

$ docker-compose up

– After finishing and accessing Alfresco on port 8080, press Ctrl-C
– Start the environment in daemon mode:

$ docker-compose up -d

Now you can enjoy Alfresco Document Management System in Docker container.

High Availability WordPress with GlusterFS

We decided to run a WordPress website in high availability mode on Amazon Web Services (AWS). I created 3 AWS instances with a Multi-AZ RDS running MySQL, move the existing database, the only missing thing is to share WordPress file on all machines (for uploads and WP upgrades). NFS was no option for me as I had bad experiences with stale connections in the past, so I decided to go with GlusterFS.

What is GlusterFS?

As per Wikipedia: GlusterFS is a scale-out network-attached storage file system. It has found applications including cloud computing, streaming media services, and content delivery networks. GlusterFS was developed originally by Gluster, Inc., then by Red Hat, Inc., after their purchase of Gluster in 2011.

Volumes shared with GlusterFS can work in multiple modes as Distributed, Mirrored (multi-way), Striped, or combinations of those.

Gluster Volumes

Gluster works in Server/Client mode, servers take care of shared volumes, clients mount the volumes and use them. In my scenario the servers and the clients are the same machines.

Preparation of Gluster nodes

1- Nodes will communicate on internal AWS network, so the following must go on each node’s /etc/hosts file:

XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX node-gfs1 # us-east-1b
XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX node-gfs2 # us-east-1d
XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX node-gfs3 # us-east-1d

2- Create AWS EBS volumes to be attached on each instance. Node that it’s good to create each volume in the availability zone of the instance.

3- Open firewall ports on local network:
Note: To mount them locally (client on the same server machine), must open proper below or else the FS might be mounted read only, according to the following guidelines:

– 24007 TCP for the Gluster Daemon
– 24008 TCP for Infiniband management (optional unless you are using IB)
– One TCP port for each brick in a volume. So, for example, if you have 4 bricks in a volume, port 24009 – 24012 would be used in GlusterFS 3.3 & below, 49152 – 49155 from GlusterFS 3.4 & later.
– 38465, 38466 and 38467 TCP for the inline Gluster NFS server.
– Additionally, port 111 TCP and UDP (since always) and port 2049 TCP-only (from GlusterFS 3.4 & later) are used for port mapper and should be open.

Installation steps

On each machine: install GlusterFS (server and client)

# yum install centos-release-gluster37
# yum install glusterfs-server

Then start the Gluster server process and enable it on boot:

# systemctl start glusterd
# systemctl enable glusterd
Created symlink from /etc/systemd/system/ to /usr/lib/systemd/system/glusterd.service.

From first node: establish Gluster cluster nodes trust relationship:

# gluster peer probe node-gfs2
peer probe: success. 
# gluster peer probe node-gfs3
peer probe: success.

Now check the status of peer commands:

# gluster peer status
Number of Peers: 2
Hostname: node-gfs2
Uuid: 2a7ea8f6-0832-42ba-a98e-6fe7d67fcfe9
State: Peer in Cluster (Connected)
Hostname: node-gfs3
Uuid: 55b0ce72-0c34-441f-ab3c-88414885e32d
State: Peer in Cluster (Connected)

On each server: prepare the volumes:

# mkdir -p /glusterfs/bricks/brick1
# mkfs.xfs /dev/xvdf

Add to /etc/fstab:

UUID=8f808cef-c7c6-4c2a-bf15-0e32ef71e97c /glusterfs/bricks/brick1 xfs    defaults        0 0

Then mount it

Note: If you use the mount point directly I get the error:

# gluster volume create wp replica 3 node-gfs1:/glusterfs/bricks/brick1 node-gfs2:/glusterfs/bricks/brick1 node-gfs3:/glusterfs/bricks/brick1
volume create: wp: failed: The brick node-gfs1:/glusterfs/bricks/brick1 is a mount point. Please create a sub-directory under the mount point and use that as the brick directory. Or use 'force' at the end of the command if you want to override this behavior.

So create under each /glusterfs/bricks/brick1 mount point a directory used for GlusterFS volume, in my case I created /glusterfs/bricks/brick1/gv.

From server 1: Create a 3-way mirror volume:

# gluster volume create wp replica 3 node-gfs1:/glusterfs/bricks/brick1/gv node-gfs2:/glusterfs/bricks/brick1/gv node-gfs3:/glusterfs/bricks/brick1/gv
volume create: wp: success: please start the volume to access data

Check the status:

# gluster volume info
Volume Name: wp
Type: Replicate
Volume ID: 34dbacba-344e-4c89-875f-4c91812f01be
Status: Created
Number of Bricks: 1 x 3 = 3
Transport-type: tcp
Brick1: node-gfs1:/glusterfs/bricks/brick1/gv
Brick2: node-gfs2:/glusterfs/bricks/brick1/gv
Brick3: node-gfs3:/glusterfs/bricks/brick1/gv
Options Reconfigured:
performance.readdir-ahead: on

Now start the volume:

# gluster volume start wp
volume start: wp: success

Check the status of the volume:

# gluster volume status
Status of volume: wp
Gluster process                             TCP Port  RDMA Port  Online  Pid
Brick node-gfs1:/glusterfs/bricks/brick1/
gv                                          49152     0          Y       10229
Brick node-gfs2:/glusterfs/bricks/brick1/
gv                                          49152     0          Y       9323 
Brick node-gfs3:/glusterfs/bricks/brick1/
gv                                          49152     0          Y       9171 
NFS Server on localhost                     2049      0          Y       10249
Self-heal Daemon on localhost               N/A       N/A        Y       10257
NFS Server on node-gfs2                     2049      0          Y       9343 
Self-heal Daemon on node-gfs2               N/A       N/A        Y       9351 
NFS Server on node-gfs3                     2049      0          Y       9191 
Self-heal Daemon on node-gfs3               N/A       N/A        Y       9199 
Task Status of Volume wp
There are no active volume tasks

This is a healthy volume, if one of the servers goes offline it will disappear from the table above and reappears when it’s back online. Also peer status will be disconnected (from gluster peer status command).

Using the volume (Gluster clients)

Mount on each machine: In server 1 I will mount from server 2, from server 2 i will mount from server 3, from server 3 I will mount from server 1.

Using the syntax in /etc/fatab:

node-gfs2:/wp        /var/www/html      glusterfs     defaults,_netdev  0  0

Repeat it on each server as per my above note.

Now /var/www/html is shared on each machine in read/write mode.



Protecting WordPress site with Fail2Ban

Recently, one of the web servers I’m responsible for got hammered with a distributed high load of HTTP requests that got the server down for 20 minutes. Once I got the server up again the distributed attack was still running and the case was clear from the log file, and we was able to stop it by temporarily banning the offending IPs (which by the way appears to be from Russia).

I had to find a quick solution since the attacker can start the distributed attack from new IPs other than the one we blocked. Few of the ways I thought about was to limit number of requests from the web server by denying further requests, or probably Intrusion Prevention System, or to use Fail2Ban. I decided to give Fail2Ban a try.

Why Fail2Ban?

Back when I used OpenBSD they introduced if I remember correctly a new SMTP server to only respond to spam’ing IPs, the idea was to load a list of IPs that are known to be spammers from SPAM list databases, when they arrive to mail server they are redirected to a so called stuttering SMTP. An SMTP service that consume spammer resource by slowing down the connection and keeping it open as long as possible.

I wanted to consume resource of our attackers as well, when Fail2Ban discover their behavior it will add offending IPs to be dropped by the firewall till their connection times out so we will stale them for some time. It’s not very effective, but at least that what i had in my mind.

What is Fail2Ban?

As per Wikipedia: Fail2ban is an intrusion prevention software framework that protects computer servers from brute-force attacks. Written in the Python programming language, it is able to run on POSIX systems that have an interface to a packet-control system or firewall installed locally, for example, iptables or TCP Wrapper.

It does so by monitoring log file for predefined regular expressions that contains IP of attackers with a set of criteria, like time window of the attack and number of tries, and when a match is found it takes action of preventing access of the offending IP, either add it to the firewall, hosts.deny and probably other actions.

Enough with blah blah and now with the technical stuff:

Software stack:

  • Varnish caching server (port 80)
  • Nginx (port 8080)
  • PHP-FPM (port 9000)
  • MySQL (port 3306)

Sample log entry in Nginx: - - [15/May/2016:11:55:14 +0000] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.0" 200 370 "-" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible: MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 6.0)" "XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX"

Note that the offending URL appears as last entry not in the beginning as usually happens, because of Varnish.

On CentOS 7, I installed Fail2Ban using:

# yum -y install fail2ban

It will install Fail2Ban servers, client (which will connect to the server to control it or display information), and other utilities for testing and so (like fail2ban-regex).

No I defined the filter to match IP from the above log entry as:

# /etc/fail2ban/filter.d/nginx-wp-xmlrpc.conf:
# fail2ban filter configuration for nginx behind varnish running wordpress website.
# it will prevent brute force attacks for login via xmlrpc.
# Match the following:
# - - [15/May/2016:22:40:37 +0000] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.0" 200 370 "-" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible: MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 6.0)" "XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX"
failregex = POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/.*""$
ignoreregex =

Now to test it:

# fail2ban-regex /var/log/nginx/access.log /etc/fail2ban/filter.d/nginx-wp-xmlrpc.conf 
Running tests
Use   failregex filter file : nginx-wp-xmlrpc, basedir: /etc/fail2ban
Use         log file : /var/log/nginx/access.log
Use         encoding : UTF-8
Failregex: 11774 total
|-  #) [# of hits] regular expression
|   1) [11774] POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/.*"<HOST>"$
Ignoreregex: 0 total
Date template hits:
|- [# of hits] date format
|  [16427] Day(?P<_sep>[-/])MON(?P=_sep)Year[ :]?24hour:Minute:Second(?:\.Microseconds)?(?: Zone offset)?
Lines: 16427 lines, 0 ignored, 11774 matched, 4653 missed [processed in 2.17 sec]
Missed line(s): too many to print.  Use --print-all-missed to print all 4653 lines

11774 lines! 11774 attack attempts. And to be sure:

# grep "POST /xmlrpc.php" /var/log/nginx/access.log | wc -l

No with the Jail for the offending IPs:

# /etc/fail2ban/jail.d/01-nginx-wp-xmlrpc.conf:
# For now if we got 20 occurrences of those in 2 minutes we will ban the offender
# ban for 12 hours</code>
enabled = true
logpath = /var/log/nginx/access.log
maxretry = 20
findtime = 120
bantime = 43200 # In secs. Or negative for permanent.
port = http,https

Now start the the server:

# systemctl start fail2ban
# systemctl enable fail2ban
Created symlink from /etc/systemd/system/ to /usr/lib/systemd/system/fail2ban.service.

Check the status of Fail2Ban server:

# fail2ban-client status
|- Number of jail: 1
`- Jail list: nginx-wp-xmlrpc
# fail2ban-client status nginx-wp-xmlrpc
Status for the jail: nginx-wp-xmlrpc
|- Filter
| |- Currently failed: 0
| |- Total failed: 0
| `- File list: /var/log/nginx/access.log
`- Actions
|- Currently banned: 0
|- Total banned: 0
`- Banned IP list:

Make sure all is fine in: /var/log/fail2ban.log