Some time has passed since I wrote the original post, and a few things have changed. I’m now running SAS 9.4 M3, but this post should equally apply to SAS 9.4 M2. I have also switched the Linux distribution from Debian to CentOS 7.1. I am also using a much simpler method of joining the Linux server to the AD domain, using the realmd package (previously there were lots of individual steps using the underlying packages but realmd automates most of this). In this post I’m going to outline the simpler method using realmd of course.
I’ve been spending lots of time lately on SAS® platform identity synchronizations. I’m fairly confident that I’ve done more Microsoft Active Directory (AD) to SAS Metadata Server synchronizations in the past few weeks, than I’ve done in my entire career working with SAS software! 🙂 The reason for this is that we’ve been doing lots of testing and demos for a new Metacoda Identity Sync Plug-in we’ve built that makes it easier for people to get started synchronizing identities with SAS metadata. With all these tests and demos, the SAS metadata backup and restore facility has also been an invaluable feature for allowing us to easily rewind and repeat the process – I’ve done my fair share of backup/restores these past few weeks too 🙂
The idea for the Metacoda Identity Sync Plug-in came after years of writing and customizing SAS programs using the standard SAS User Import Macros (%MDU macros). I found I had built up a set of common practices I would choose from depending on the customers requirements: things like name/display-name prefixing/suffixing; tagging for deletion instead of deleting outright; login manipulation; audit reporting etc. This plug-in is a way of packaging those practices up, as configurable options, with both a point-and-click and a batch interface. The outcome is an ability to rapidly implement identity synchronization, for a new or existing SAS platform installation, in a matter of minutes (rather than hours or days of writing code).
It has been a very rewarding experience building this new plug-in, and the feedback we’ve had so far has been very positive. Some of the interesting challenges along the way included:
Making it easy to get started, but also flexible enough to handle some of the more specific requirements we see with our customers. The point and click interface includes the common options, but we also added support for customers to tweak things by dropping their own SAS code in at key points in the process too.
Letting people interactively visualize and review the changes before they are made, adding and removing exceptions as required, and building a configuration that can be used in batch processes too.
Working within AD resource limits whilst extracting reasonably large subsets of identities for synchronization with SAS. Some of our tests included pulling out many thousands of users (40K+), including groups that contained several thousand users each.
Providing support for encrypted connections to AD via LDAPS, or LDAP with STARTTLS.
Generating audit reports of the process, so you can track what changes occurred when, and with all of the information that led to those changes.
Writing our first commercial plug-in that updates metadata (all our other commercial plug-ins to-date have been read-only). In this plug-in we have opted to only update metadata via the standard, unmodified, well known and trusted SAS %MDU macros. Whilst we have lot of experience with the SAS metadata model, we decided to give our customers a gentle introduction to Metacoda driven metadata updates.
If you’d like to see the Metacoda Identity Sync Plug-in in action, here’s a short 10 minute screencast. I show the initial configuration, building an Identity Sync Profile, and a small initial load of AD users, driven by the selection of an initial set of AD groups. That saved profile can then be re-used for further interactive synchronizations (adding, updating and deleting identities as appropriate), as well as being used to drive regular batch synchronizations (topics for future screencasts perhaps?).
We’ve been getting some great feedback from the people we have shown so far, so I hope you’ve found this video interesting too. If you’d like to find out more about this new plug-in, or any of our other Metacoda Plug-ins, please contact me, or visit the metacoda.com web site. We’re still taking on beta testers for the the upcoming Metacoda Plug-ins 5.0 release too.
SAS® 9.4 M3 is now available (as discussed by Andy Ratcliffe in his recent NOTE: blog post), so I’m downloading a new SAS depot using the SAS Download Manager. I’m downloading it onto a Linux server that happens to have X11 available, but I’m choosing to use console (text) mode, rather than the default X11 windowed mode.
Using SAS Download Manager in console mode is my preferred method because I find it more flexible. Why Console mode? I know from experience that a SAS depot download is going to take a few hours and, if I run SAS Download Manager in windowed mode, I risk losing the remote X connection if there are any network disruptions between me and the server. By running SAS Download Manager in console mode, in combination with screen over an SSH session, I can easily disconnect/reconnect as required. I can disconnect (Control-A D) when I leave the office to go home, and reconnect (screen -r) when I get home to check on progress. I can also get screen to capture a log of the session in a text file (screen -L).
Of course, I could have used a Windows or Mac version of the SAS Download Manager to download onto a laptop and then upload onto the server, but that ties the laptop to a single location for the duration of the download. Plus if I’m not near the server at the time, I’d have to download and then upload nearly 50GB of SAS depot. If I’m traveling with my 4G mobile broadband connection, the server also has a much faster and much cheaper internet connection than I do! These are some of the reasons I prefer console mode.