Category Archives: Operations

Hardware and system administration related posts. Anything related to the Operations Working Group

Service schedule March – April 2012

The long awaited and eagerly anticipated license upgrade is coming soon, the conclusion of a multi-year process. To minimise disruption to OpenStreetMap mappers and users, we’re taking the opportunity to install our new database server (funded by your generous contributions) at the same time – reducing the total amount of downtime needed.

Please be aware of the following service schedule and the list of dates further on in this article. The license upgrade will start with the database server migration. All times and dates are subject to change: our volunteers are working flat out on this, so thanks in advance for your patience and support.


There will be a several-day period of limited API availability. The API will be Read Only while the database is moved to the new database server, ramoth. This new database server was funded by your contributions during the December 2011 fund raising campaign. No map editing will be possible while the API is Read Only.

During the remainder of the upgrade, the API should operate normally. Please postpone bulk edits where possible, until after the license upgrade is complete. As always with system improvements, your patience while you find items to refine is appreciated. Consider monitoring the friendly OSM IRC chat channel, #osm on, if you have questions.

We would ask mappers who have not yet agreed (or otherwise) to the new terms to log into OSM before the downtime starts on 1st April (0800 UTC) and signal their intention. We are pleased that the vast majority of OSM data will be unaffected by the license change, and thank all the mappers who have thus far consented to their data being distributed under the new license.

Data consumers

The typical planet file scheduled for this week has been postponed. The final old license planet file will be created from 01 April 2012 data. It will be published once the planet file generation completes which may be delayed by a few days.

The old license replication diff service will stop when the database goes to Read Only mode for the server migration. A new license replication diff service will begin at the completion of the license upgrade from a new address. There will be another message with details for using the new diffs when you are ready to start consuming them.

Important Dates

These dates and times are subject to change without notice.

  • 1st April: Enter Read-only mode. 8am UTC
  • 4th April: End of downtime. Enter Read-write mode on new server. Our estimate is that this will be in the morning, but could be subject to change.
  • 5th-6th April: bbox-based live-data tests of rebuild logic.
  • 7th April: Start automated processing of all remaining non-clean objects.
  • 9th April: Progress report and estimation of remaining license upgrade time.
  • To be Determined: On completion of the processing, subject to satisfaction with the outcome we can re-declare the dataset to be ODbL. Immediately afterwards, a first new license planet file will be generated/published, and diff creation will resume.


Thanks, as always, to the many people who make OpenStreetMap great. These people include: the countless mappers who have improved the data, the operations volunteers who make so many things “just work”, the programmers who make participating in OSM easier every day, the donors who provide the hardware and hosting we rely upon.

Many of you ‘overlap’ in more than one of these areas. Please be aware that the thanks are cumulative. :-)

[As excerpted from Dermot McNally's announcement. Context added from additional sources.]

Database downtime – 20 March 2012

On Tuesday 20th of March 2012 between 13:45 and 16:15 (GMT / UTC) the
primary database server will unavailable due to emergency maintenance.

The following services will be affected:

  • web site will not allow user login or edits (Potlatch). [1]
  • API and map database editing (using JOSM, Merkaartor etc.) will be unavailable.
  • will be available but no new diffs will be generated during the outage.
  • Forum (no logins)
  • trac (bug-tracker, no logins)
  • (no logins)

Other services will not be affected – all of the following are
expected to function normally:

  • tile serving (“View The Map” & “Export”)
  • Wiki
  • Nominatim (search)
  • mailing lists
  • subversion and git (source code repositories)

Technical: Database Server Smaug: Replacing faulty motherboard.
Supplier Engineer Onsite. We have contingency hardware available.

1: Maps will still be viewable on the homepage and
on other people’s websites.

Grant Slater
On behalf of the OpenStreetMap sysadmin team

OSMF Hardware Update

Servers, ramoth and bowser, in position.

The sysadmin team have brought some more hardware on-line for our delight. OpenStreetMap servers are named after dragons, taken from “Here be Dragons” the inscription denoting incomplete / unexplored places on historical maps. Learn more about OpenStreetMap dragons.

  • azure - Java-XAPI. Experimental. Provides read-only OSM data from a refreshed XAPI code base. Azure has recently received a long anticipated disk upgrade.
  • bowser - joins soup and fiddlestick as another Web Front End server. This server will make browsing the web site snappier for browsing the map, etc.
  • eustace - Web stats. Experimental. Tracks user behaviour across OSM servers to understand and improve user experience.
  • gorwen and orm -geoDNS tile caching. gorwen is kindly supplied and hosted by Teleservice Skåne AB GeoDNS serves tiles from the closest tile server. The sysadmin team hope to have a North American server available shortly. We seek a host for other, geographically diverse servers. If you are interested and not worried by 100Mbits/s, please speak to a sysadmin on #osm-dev at
  • poldi - Nominatim. Provides search and geocoding of OSM data. Return of a local nominatim instance after a hiatus.
  • ramoth - is the second database server. The successful fund raising campaign of December 2011 led to the installation of this server. This server increases the reliability and performance of OSM database operations. Current status: in rack, being configured.

We also welcome the two newest members of the server team, Ian Dees (iandees) and Sarah Hoffman (lonvia). They will be maintaining the Java-XAPI and nominatim servers.

Photo credit

Photo by Firefishy.

Funding drive – Improving OSM reliability and performance

Pound Coins
Pound Coins photo by William Warby CC-BY-2.0

OpenStreetMap is growing fast. We’ve recently welcomed our 500,000th signed up user, and we’ve logged our 10.000.000 th update to the map. Over the next few weeks we’re running a fund-raising drive while we invest in server infrastructure to improve reliability and performance of OpenStreetMap. If you’d like to support the project in this way, or you know anybody else who would like to give OSMers an early Christmas present, visit our fund raising site:

You have the option to include your name on the donors list. We’re aiming to raise £15,000 (~ 23,000 U.S. dollars).  Let’s see how quickly we hit the target!

We wanted to run another fund raising drive, because last time we had a big one was back in 2009 (old blog post) and we were blown away by how quickly we raised the target amount. It seemed as though people were looking for an outlet for their generosity and goodwill towards the project. Since we’re planning to buy a new server, now seems like a good time to do it again.

The Operations Working Group, which has the important role of keeping core OSM services running smoothly, plans to invest in a new server. This will provide us with a database replica. This improvement is at the very core of the OpenStreetMap infrastructure, giving services greater resilience. It means we’ll bounce back quicker and easier in the event of a hardware failure. In time the new server will also bring about some performance improvements.  We have a wiki page with more technical details and plans for the new hardware.

We hope you’ll agree that, although these improvements are very much behind-the-scenes, they are important. Please give generously to help make them happen!

More new servers

Dragon sculpture on the Dragon Bridge in Ljubljana. Photo CC-By-SA, dani_7C3

The OpenStreetMap Foundation, and the Operations Working Group, would like to thank Nokia UK Limited for the donation of some of their redundant server hardware. This hardware has found new purpose in the form of “soup“[1] and “fiddlestick“[2], two new web front end servers. A third server “eustace“[3] will be used initially as a trial web statistics server.

The web front-end servers, soup and fiddlestick, replace puff and fuchur who had performed that role since 2008. Web front-end servers in OpenStreetMap provide the data browser and data layer, as well as user diaries and other “social” functions.

Eustace will debut in a new role for OpenStreetMap by collecting web statistics. The OpenStreetMap Foundation wants to know more about how users experience the OSM web site in an effort to improve the way that OSM services are delivered.

[1] Character from The Clangers, a UK children’s TV programme.
[2] Strangewood (1999): Fiddlestick, a small musically emotive dragon.
[3] Turns into a dragon in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Chronicles of Narnia) after slipping on a gold bracelet.

Introducing Zark

Zark, during installation.

Zark is the newest OpenStreetMap server. Give Zark a warm welcome. Continuing the in the tradition of naming OSM servers after dragons, the name “Zark” is taken from the Eidolon Chronicles/Shadow World books by Jane Johnson.

The first task for Zark will be to serve as a trial / evaluation server for the OWL – OpenStreetMap Watch List service. OWL’s popularity on the dev server has lead to performance problems and long update delays. After more than a year of development and increasing popularity of OWL’s ability to follow local changes without distracting “Big” changesets, moving OWL to Zark will make this service even more effective for mappers.

Many thanks to for donating this server.

Q3 2011 Service reductions

Photo by strollers on Flicker, CC-By-SA

Some secondary OpenStreetMap services will be unavailable during the following dates, due to power maintenance work at our server hosting:

  • 2nd and 3rd July 2011. (Saturday & Sunday)
  • 30th and 31st July 2011. (Saturday & Sunday)
  • 3rd and 4th September 2011. (Saturday & Sunday)
  • and 1 weekday (to be confirmed) during August 2011.

On each of these weekends, the servers will be shut down at 7:30 UTC, and will be started again after works are completed, which will be Sunday 16:30 UTC at the latest, but may be earlier. We do not yet have a precise date for the August maintenance.

The following services will be unavailable during these periods:

As a temporary replacement for XAPI/jXAPI, consider using third-party services such as that provided by MapQuest

Additional information will be posted to the following page: Power_Maintenance_Q3_2011

The following services are not affected:

  • web site
  • API and Editing
  • and diffs.
  • tile serving for existing tiles (details below)
  • Wiki
  • Nominatim (search)
  • mailing lists
  • subversion and git (source code repositories)
  • trac (bug-tracker)

Maps will still be viewable on the homepage and on other people’s websites. We’ll be serving tiles from a back-up tile server. However rendering engines will be deactivated, meaning that new rendering of map updates will not take place during the maintenance period, some requests for tiles will fail where no cached copy is available, and tile response times may be slower than normal.

Downtime announcement: 23 June 2011

Thursday 23rd June 2011 7:30am (GMT/UTC+0) the API and map data editing on will be unavailable. The maintenance period is expected to last for 12 hours.

The following services will be unavailable during the maintenance period:
API, editing features of and including replication diffs.

The wiki, mailing lists and will be unaffected.

Technical: Some of the core servers are being re-located to another data-centre.

Additional information will be posted on the wiki as the maintenance window approaches:

OpenStreetMap tile layer guidelines

mosaic of Modesto California, shown in four different tile styles.

Mosaic of Modesto, California, in four tile layer styles.

The image above was inspired, in part, by Firefishy’s April Fools Day joke, OpenWhateverMap. While such a map is unlikely to be used for an ordinary application, it does serve to show the wide variety of renderings of OpenStreetMap data that are created by the OpenStreetMap community and displayed on the OpenStreetMap web site. It also serves as an illustration of one of the frequently asked questions about the web site.

How are maps added to the OpenStreetMap web site?

Until December 2005, the OpenStreetMap web site did not have a map shown at all.

The OpenStreetMap main page in November 2005 had no map. (Courtesy Internet Archive)

Starting in December 2005, maps have appeared on the OpenStreetMap web site. Today, the slippy map is the most prominent feature of the OpenStreetMap web page. Currently there are four rendering layers that can selected on the front page as well as one overlay layer.

The OpenStreetMap Foundation now has published guidelines for tile layers to be considered for inclusion on the OpenStreetMap web page. If you know of an interesting rendering of OSM data, and you think it should be considered as a Featured Layer, add your suggestion to the featured tiles score card and start the discussion.

The proposed layers will be evaluated for suitability by the Technical Working Group, periodically, and the tile layer that you recommend could be featured on the OpenStreetMap web site.

Working Group Summary

We’ve fallen behind on the Working Group Summaries as the snow got deeper.  Let’s try again.  These summaries do not replace the formal minutes of the working groups, they are intended to be a quick and easy summary of recent topics before the working groups.

Data Working Group

The Data Working Group met most recently on 20 January 2011. They responded to a report of inappropriately sourced data in Ecuador.  In the end that data was removed and the Ecuadoran community was notified on talk-ec@.

Technical Working Group

TWG met on 26 Jan 2011. Tile server loads are increasing. One major cause is the continued growth of data in well-mapped areas. A node moved in central Berlin, for example, causes re-rendering of a very complex meta-tile.  TWG is considering 5 minute expiry time to reduce the amount of re-rendering during an editing session. A new power supply is required for one server.  Most equipment has been transitioned to the new power management hardware.

The TWG also updated the near-, mid- and long-term hardware maintenance plan.

State of the Map Working Group

SotMWG met on 26 Jan 2011 and have released their Call for Papers for Denver.  The SotMWG is still accepting members.  Would you like to help organize the OpenStreetMap conference this year?   In particular, please offer your help to if you can help translate the Call for Papers. The SotM logo contest ends soon.

Communication Working Group

The CWG meeting of 24 Jan 2011 was canceled due to scheduling issues.

License Working Group

The LWG meeting of 25 Jan 2011 was canceled due to illness.

Strategic Working Group

The SWG met on 27 Jan 2011 and formalized the initial membership and operating practices of the SWG.  There was a review of the proposed budgeting process.