Google Summer of Code: MySQL Auditing Software

On Monday August 20th, 2007, the Google Summer of Code officially ended. I have had a great time this summer, although it has not always been sunshine and flowers! Because of the nature of the Summer of Code, setbacks due to lack of knowledge were not a problem. It’s expected that the students don’t know everything!

So mostly the setbacks were organizational. I had 2 students working on MySQL Auditing Software, which I have tentatively (and very geekily) called OughtToAudit. One student was working on the administrative interface, where access to the auditing program and the auditing rules themselves are defined. As well, reporting on suspicious activity as well as the rule-breaking activity could be seen. The other student was working on a pcap (libpcap, winpcap) engine to store all database traffic. Why pcap? One of the main tenets of auditing is that the auditing system is independent of the system to be audited. Part of this is for control purposes, so that the DBA is not the final arbiter of what’s in the auditing system — that can be owned by someone else, so that the DBA can be watched, too (just 2 months ago a report came out about a DBA stealing sensitive data,

The community bonding period was great. I did not want to code during that time, I wanted to have the students learn more about auditing, and get to be part of the community. Well, only one student had time during that period, and looking back on it, he had more to learn, so I should have had him start. I also wasn’t as organized as I could have been and was planning on using the community bonding time to write up a spec, which was late.

The coding started a bit late because both students had finals the first week in June. And then I got married the 2nd week in June and went on a 2-week honeymoon, which did not help matters. I thought my vacation would be 3 solid weeks into the Summer of Code, but it ended up being about 2 non-solid weeks (say, 1.5 actual weeks). So just when the questions started coming to the forefront, I was gone. The best laid plans and all that, I guess.

After my honeymoon it was July, and I scrambled to get organized and be the best help I could. I succeeded, but I really needed a push to get myself more motivated. Basically I did not do as much as I should have in the first half. During or just after the midterm, we established a schedule of twice-weekly conference calls (5 pm my time, 10 pm for one student, 11 pm for another, on Wednesdays and Sundays). This helped a lot, and sometimes one or more folks couldn’t make it, and that’s OK, because we had them twice a week.

From my point of view, there were not any surprises, though things did take longer than I expected, as I misjudged skills and knowledge of both students at different points, in different directions — that is, I thought both students were both better and worse at different parts of their projects, so some parts went faster and others went slower.

The outcome so far is this: we are at about an 0.7 or 0.8 release, not ready even for alpha until we can integrate a few things. We have overcome a lot of challenges, and both students know a lot more about MySQL and auditing than they did before, and got good coding experience. Which was the point of the Google Summer of Code. MySQL is closer to having auditing software, though I’d have hoped we’d have gotten a bit further than we have. But we’ve agreed to meet once a month, now that the students go back to jobs and school, and continue to work on it.

All in all, it was a good experience. Had I to do it over, I’d have done many things similarly. I would start with the conference calls from the beginning and not been overconfident in the beginning, and used the community bonding period to do what the students wanted instead of holding them back.

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