Pantek Case Study

With Nowhere Else to Turn, Government Contractor Relies on Pantek to Solve Open Source Integration Challenges for Federal Agency


The client is a large federal agency focused on science exploration. For IT services, the agency partners with a NASDAQ company that serves as a contractor to provide technology solutions for US defense, intelligence, and other federal agencies.

The Challenge:

To facilitate internal communications, the federal agency relies on the Sympa open source mailing list application. Sympa enables the agency to manage 21,000 email group lists compiled from thousands of end-users, which include scientists, researchers, analysts, managers, and administrative support personnel.

Sympa runs on the CentOS Linux operating system in a virtualized VMware environment and uses the MariaDB database. Sympa also connects to a Microsoft LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) directory and was long overdue for an upgrade. The agency wanted to upgrade the software to streamline system administration, improve email communication performance for end-users, strengthen the security posture, and create a high-availability server architecture.

The Solution:

When the agency turned to its contractor partner to take on this challenge, the complexity of the open source technologies seemed to present an unsolvable dilemma. The contractor was not able, at first, to find a subcontractor partner with the necessary skills. But while searching an open source user-group portal, the contractor discovered Pantek. And after a short conversation, the contractor realized Pantek could save the day.

With decades of experience taking on integration challenges that other open source experts will not touch, Pantek provided the answer the federal agency needed. Pantek specializes in a wide range of open source technologies, even those like Sympa that are not widely used.

In addition to technical expertise, Pantek offers the flexibility to adjust to the logistical requirements of a client project. For this federal agency, the project would have been easier to execute in the cloud, but the agency asked to keep the solution in an on-premises data center. Pantek conformed to this request and was also able to meet the tight timeline requirements.

The Result

The new configuration built by Pantek for the federal agency expanded the system architecture from one server to four production servers along with test, development, and disaster recovery servers in a virtual environment. Because of the extensive Sympa customization, Pantek reviewed every segment of the customized code and templates to make sure they would continue to work in the new configuration and rewrote the Perl code when necessary to convert customizations.

Another tricky integration involved LDAP, which houses user information and has a customized interface for managing mailing lists. Pantek made sure the interface continued to work and interact with Sympa after the upgrade.

Coordinating and programming all the interfaces was made more challenging given the size and complexity of the agency’s organization. But Pantek resolved this issue by collaborating closely with many departments to ensure the connections worked properly.

With the upgraded Sympa solution, end-users now find it easier to communicate, which fosters stronger collaboration among agency teams. IT also benefits from an email list system that’s easier to manage and which features high availability along with stronger security—now that all the components are up-to-date and running the latest versions.

Other key integrations Pantek configured included a web interface for system admins and the Galera cluster that runs MariaDB. Pantek also assisted the client’s IT team in configuring F5 load balancers.

Key Technologies

  • CentOS Linux
  • MariaDB
  • Sympa
  • VMware
  • Microsoft LDAP
  • Perl
  • F5
  • Galera
If a federal agency or government contractor faces issues involving open source technologies and finds it difficult to access the necessary expertise, they can always turn to Pantek. Pantek finds a way to get the job done—leveraging 25 years of open source expertise to ensure compatibility across applications, compute resources, networking gear, operating systems, and software code.