What is NixOS, anyway?
NixOS is more of a packaging system than a full-fledged Linux Distribution. What makes it interesting or worthwhile? It, like VanillaOS (https://vanillaos.org/) or BlendOS (https://blendos.co/), has atomized updating, and each package sits in its own container, so if one package breaks, it is easy to roll it back, and you don’t wind up in dependency hell. This also allows for greater automation capabilities for us, as we can spin up a server for you with a single command, based on our custom configuration file. It also simplifies updates, allowing our services to you to be more seamless.
Why are we talking about NixOS here, and now?
Nix is the basis for much of Altha Tech’s infrastructure, as due to the reasons above, it is highly reproducible and configurable. If this sounds great, and you’re wondering what the catch is, it can be even more finicky than Arch at times. If you’ve been around Linux, you have probably heard stories of the famous instability of Arch, where it may seem like it breaks if you look at it funny. Nix is stable, once you have it configured properly, otherwise Altha Tech would not use it in production environments, as that would put our data and yours at risk if it were not a stable solution.
I have Ethan Edwards here to talk about NixOS, and how Altha Tech uses it on our servers, to protect your personal digital sovereignty and how it helps Altha Tech to Own the Data, Protect the Data, and Serve the Data, both that data which belongs to us, and what you entrust to us.
First things first, who is Ethan? He is a young man who is our system engineer and network administrator, as well as a passionate nerd (this will likely be a recurring theme in these interview pieces). He has worked for Altha Tech for about 3 years now, and has seen it grow significantly, as he has grown along with it.
When Ethan first started, Altha was running on Cloud Linux (https://www.cloudlinux.com/) with Plesk (https://www.plesk.com/), but had outgrown it. The team then migrated to Ubuntu (https://ubuntu.com/server) with Caprover (https://caprover.com/) on top of it, but realized that it wasn’t as stable or performant as they needed it to be. Next, they switched to CentOS (https://www.centos.org/) with Docker/ Docker swarm (https://www.docker.com/) (https://docs.docker.com/engine/swarm/) on top of it. However, Red Hat decided to stop supporting CentOS all of the sudden, so the hunt was on for a new solution. They came across NixOS (https://nixos.org/), and tried it, but at the time, it was not production-ready, so we turned to Debian (https://www.debian.org/) with Docker (https://www.docker.com/) on top of it, but found that it lacked the ability to easily reproduce servers as needed. After a while, Jared’s brother highly suggested that they look at NixOS again. It was found that the bugs which stopped them from rolling it out had been squashed, so they went forward with converting much of the fleet to NixOS. Currently, everything but the storage rig(s) are running on NixOS, so all of your Nextcloud (https://nextcloud.org), restreamer (https://github.com/datarhei/restreamer), and other self-hosted applications at Altha Tech are running on that base.
Once a configuration is properly set up, it is as simple as running a single command to spin up another server with a flawless, bit for bit copy of that configuration. This makes it very easy to create whatever resources our clients need, at the drop of a hat. So when we take a look at the flexibility afforded for Altha Tech by using NixOS, it is immense. Due to the nature of NixOS being more or less the kernel plus a custom package manager, built to be fully atomic and containerized, once a configuration file which servers are based on is altered, the whole fleet receives that change, all at once. This makes rolling out updates, such as to Nextcloud or restreamer or even Wordpress (https://wordpress.org/) far simpler to manage and even automate. This frees the team up to focus more on innovation than on maintenance and management.
What does all this mean for you, though? How does this help us to Own the Data, Protect the Data, and Serve the Data? Quite simply, it means that we are able to be more responsive to your needs, as our systems are more stable and have better performance than ever. It means that we can focus more on protection and service to you rather than constantly putting out figurative fires in our server infrastructure. How does NixOS help us to support you in your desire for personal digital sovereignty? It allows us to serve you better with less stress, protect your data away from prying eyes, and make sure that you have full access to it as close to 24/7/365 as humanly possible.
In case you were wondering, this piece was written by Matthew Patten, who is a passionate FOSS advocate and runs his own business, Techfreedom.pro (https://techfreedom.pro) which does many of the same things as Altha Technology. Matthew looks forward to helping Jared and the team to get the word out about their services and FOSS in general, as he believes that it is one of the prime ways forward to get out of the tech mess we are in, where your digital life basically doesn’t belong to you, but to the platforms and services where you chose to set up accounts. Tech Freedom seeks to help you change that, and so does Altha Tech. That is why this partnership makes sense.