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OTRS is installed on iodine.wikimedia.org.

  • URL is https://ticket.wikimedia.org/otrs/index.pl
  • The root user/pass is in /srv/passwords/otrs
  • We use mod_perl with ModPerl::Registry, so whenever you change a file, you need to /etc/init.d/apache2 reload
  • The "News" messages on the main OTRS login screen can be editing by modifying /opt/otrs/Kernel/Output/HTML/Standard/Motd.dtl.

There is no need to update config files to add email addresses to OTRS; mchenry will automatically see that the queue exists or has disappeared. However it is possible (due to negative caching at the secondary mail exchangers) that new addresses will take up to two hours to begin working.


The OTRS source is in /opt/otrs

The primary configuration file is /opt/otrs/Kernel/Config.pm

Configuration can be done by examining Kernel/Config/Files/ZZZAuto.pm and Kernel/Config/Files/ZZZAAuto.pm for default values, and then making a corresponding addition to Kernel/Config.pm. When you change the config, reload apache to clear the mod_perl cache.

OTRS configuration is meant to be primarily done via the Kernel/Config/Files/*.xml files. These are XML files edited by the SysConfig module. Viewing the package manager or running bin/otrs.RebuildConfig.pl will read the XML files and then regenerate the ZZZ*.pm files. Then at runtime, the ZZZ*.pm files are read, followed by the Config.pm overrides. So far so good.

The problem is that the XML files are a mixture of user-level configuration, technical data such as core module registrations, and interface text. They are distributed with OTRS, and trying to use old XML files with new OTRS versions will break horribly, because there is no other registry of defaults (except for a few special cases in the code), so vital interface text and module registrations will be missing.

Diffing and merging is difficult due to the lack of comments and the spurious changes introduced when changing things in the web interface.

So save yourself the hassle and edit Config.pm.

Local Patches

The codebase has some local customizations, which were applied as OTRS packages. The packages are stored in the database in otrs.package_repository and can be reapplied after update via the web UI. The packages can also be downloaded from within the OTRS web interface, when logged in as an admin user:

Admin-->Package Manager-->{packages listed under Local Repository}-->Download

Database backend

The primary database is on db1048.eqiad.wmnet, database named 'otrs'. There are replicas on db1046.eqiad.wmnet, db48.pmtpa.wmnet, db49.pmtpa.wmnet. OTRS uses only the primary database, they don't support slaves.


Mail delivery

  • When user/group for the exim pipe were incorrect, otrs.Postmaster.pl logged permissions to /var/log/mail.log about errors on attempts to write in /opt/otrs/var/tmp/CacheFileStorable. We fixed this by configuring the exim pipe to use group=www-data.
  • Mail hosts need mysql access to the otrs database. If mx IP addresses change or the database is inaccessible, mail defers on whichever mx is trying to do an address lookup. When we saw this happen, exim wasn't very informative about why. When in doubt double-check mysql access from the mx's command line.
  • Spamassassin runs locally on iodine, and logs in /var/log/mail.log.

Apache permissions errors

  • as user otrs run:
/opt/otrs/bin/otrs.SetPermissions.pl --otrs-user=otrs --otrs-group=otrs --web-user=www-data --web-group=www-data /opt/otrs

SpamAssassin stops reporting Bayes results

  • This happened 2014-04-24 and we discovered it was unhappy about the bayes database.
  • /var/log/syslog was full of this:
bayes db version 0 is not able to be used, aborting! at /usr/share/perl5/Mail/SpamAssassin/BayesStore/DBM.pm line 203, <GEN88>
  • We tried backup/restore the database, and the database shrank from ~24M to ~14M and SA stopped complaining. But SA continued to pass through mail with no Bayes results.
  • So we moved aside the old database, modifed otrs.TicketExport2Mbox.pl not to skip previously-seen messages, and created one-time GenericAgent [within OTRS] jobs to re-export a couple of days worth of ham/spam. Then we ran train_spamassaassin manually to train on all this data. Note otrs.TicketExport2Mbox now has --rebuild mode to support this process.

Mail setup

OTRS is installed on iodine, and e-mail is sent and received through a special Exim instance on this server. Its configuration follows the lines of the setup described in Mail, but OTRS specific configuration is listed below.


The Exim setup for OTRS on iodine does not follow the concept of serving some specific domains, but rather accepts any mail from a select sets of hosts only (mchenry). It will then check the OTRS database for validity of the recipient addresses, and pipe the message to an OTRS command in case of success.

Locally submitted mail (e.g. by OTRS) is forwarded to mchenry.

The top of /etc/exim4/exim4.conf contains some OTRS specific macros:


Main configuration

The following line defines the database(s) queried for OTRS addresses:

# MySQL lookups (OTRS)
hide mysql_servers = db1048.eqiad.wmnet/otrs/exim/password : \

The hostlist otrs_mail_from_hosts lists the MXes from which iodine accepts mail:

hostlist otrs_mail_from_hosts = mchenry.wikimedia.org

OTRS must be able to set any sender address:

# Allow OTRS to use any sender address
untrusted_set_sender = *
local_from_check = false


The mail server on iodine only needs to accept mail from and send mail to the Wikimedia mail relay(s), so any other connections can be denied in the acl_smtp_connect acl:

acl_smtp_connect = acl_check_connect
        # We only accept mail from our own mail relays
        require message = This server does not accept external mail
                hosts = <; ; ::1 ; +wikimedia_nets


In the acl_smtp_rcpt ACL, mail from the hosts listed in otrs_mail_from_hosts is explicitly accepted without any further checks:

accept hosts = +otrs_mail_from_hosts : +relay_from_hosts

Spam and Malware scanning

SpamAssassin and ClamAV are used for spam/malware scanning, in Exim ACL which is run at the DATA phase during the SMTP connection. Should SpamAssassin fail for some reason, mail is let through.

    # skip spam-check for locally-submitted messages
    accept hosts = +relay_from_hosts
        set acl_m0 = trusted relay

    # skip if message is too large (>4M)
    accept condition = ${if >{$message_size}{4M}}
        set acl_m0 = n/a
        set acl_m1 = skipped, message too large

    # skip if whitelisted in exim
    accept condition = ${if eq{$acl_m2}{skip_spamd}}
        set acl_m0 = n/a
        set acl_m1 = skipped, exim whitelist

    # add spam headers...
    warn spam = nonexistent:true
        set acl_m0 = $spam_score ($spam_bar)
        set acl_m1 = $spam_report
        set acl_m3 = $spam_score_int

    # silently drop spam at high scores (> 12)
    discard log_message = spam detected ($spam_score)
        condition = ${if >{$spam_score_int}{120}{1}{0}}

    # silently discard messages with malware attached
    discard log_message = malware detected ($malware_name)
        demime = *
        malware = *


Message tagging

We use Exim filters to tag messages with headers that OTRS can match for automatic queue routing. The Exim filters are in /etc/exim4/system_filter (see the inline comments):

# Exim filter

if first_delivery then
    # Remove headers that control OTRS - we don't want these
    headers remove X-OTRS-Priority:X-OTRS-Queue:X-OTRS-Lock:X-OTRS-Ignore:X-OTRS-State
    if $acl_m0 is not "trusted relay" then
        # Remove any SpamAssassin headers and add local ones
        headers remove X-Spam-Score:X-Spam-Report:X-Spam-Checker-Version:X-Spam-Status:X-Spam-Level:X-Spam-Flag
    if $acl_m0 is not "" and $acl_m0 is not "trusted relay" then
        headers add "X-Spam-Score: $acl_m0"
        headers add "X-Spam-Report: $acl_m1"
        # Add header for OTRS filters
        if $acl_m1 is not "" and $acl_m1 begins "yes" then
            headers add "X-Spam-Flag: YES"
        # overload X-Spam-Flag since OTRS doesn't do numeric comparison
        elif $acl_m3 is not "" and $acl_m3 is above 20 then
            headers add "X-Spam-Flag: MAYBE"
            headers add "X-Spam-Flag: NO"
        # add a hook for OTRS to filter list mail
            ($message_headers contains "\nList-Id:" or
            $message_headers contains "\nList-Help:" or
            $message_headers contains "\nList-Subscribe:" or
            $message_headers contains "\nList-Unsubscribe:" or
            $message_headers contains "\nList-Post:" or
            $message_headers contains "\nList-Owner:" or
            $message_headers contains "\nList-Archive:") and
            $header_precedence: does not match "^(bulk|junk|list)"
            headers remove Precedence
            headers add "Precedence: bulk"

OTRS mail routing

Mail destined for OTRS is served by a simple accept router otrs, which does a MySQL database query to determine the validity of the recipient address being routed, similar to the check done earlier by mchenry.

# Mail destined for OTRS

        driver = accept
        condition = ${lookup mysql{SELECT value0 FROM system_address WHERE value0='${quote_mysql:$local_part@$domain}'}{true}fail}
        transport = otrs

On success, the message is handed over to the otrs pipe transport:

# OTRS pipe transport

        driver = pipe
        command = OTRS_POSTMASTER
        current_directory = OTRS_HOME
        home_directory = OTRS_HOME
        user = OTRS_USER
        group = OTRS_GROUP
        timeout = 1m

This transport pipes the full contents of the message to the command/path specified in the macro OTRS_POSTMASTER (defined at the top of the file). A current and home directory will be set as specified, and the command will be run as the otrs user and group. If the actual execution/invocation fails for some reason, the message will be frozen on the queue with a warning message sent to root. If the command invocation succeeds, but the return code is EX_TEMPFAIL (e.g. when OTRS cannot access the database), the message is deferred/queued, and will be retried later. Any output will be logged.

Outbound mail

Any mail destined for an address that is not an OTRS address, e.g. mail submitted by OTRS itself, will be forwarded to mchenry using the manualroute router:

# Send all mail not destined for the local machine via a set of
# mail relays ("smart hosts")

        driver = manualroute
        transport = remote_smtp
        route_list = *  mchenry.wikimedia.org:lists.wikimedia.org


iodine runs its own ClamAV instance, using the stock Ubuntu clamav-daemon package. The daemon runs as user clamav which has read access to the mail queue via membership in group Debian-exim. Per the stock config, the freshclam daemon is used to update virus definitions.

Exim accesses ClamAV via unix socket at /var/run/clamav/clamd.ctl and silently drops and logs messages containing an infected attachment.


iodine runs its own SpamAssassin instance. The stock Ubuntu spamassassin 3.3.2 package is used, with daily updates enabled. Stock rules/scores are detailed at http://spamassassin.apache.org/tests_3_3_x.html and we make a few local modifications which are listed below.

Multiple user profiles are not used, SpamAssassin reads global configuration settings and runs as user otrs. Training databases are stored in that user's homedir.


# Change to one to enable spamd

# Options
# See man spamd for possible options. The -d option is automatically added.

# SpamAssassin uses a preforking model, so be careful! You need to
# make sure --max-children is not set to anything higher than 5,
# unless you know what you're doing.

OPTIONS="--max-children 8 --nouser-config --listen-ip= -u otrs -g otrs"

# Pid file
# Where should spamd write its PID to file? If you use the -u or
# --username option above, this needs to be writable by that user.
# Otherwise, the init script will not be able to shut spamd down.

# Set nice level of spamd
NICE="--nicelevel 10"

# Cronjob
# Set to anything but 0 to enable the cron job to automatically update
# spamassassin's rules on a nightly basis


Non-stock sections are shown here:

#   Set which networks or hosts are considered 'trusted' by your mail
#   server (i.e. not spammers)
trusted_networks 2620:0:860::/46

# short-format report template, starting with Yes/No, used for OTRS filters
report _YESNO_, score=_SCORE_ | host: _HOSTNAME_ | scores: _TESTSSCORES(,)_ | autolearn=_AUTOLEARN_

#   Set file-locking method (flock is not safe over NFS, but is faster)
lock_method flock

#   Set the threshold at which a message is considered spam (default: 5.0)
required_score 3.5
score RP_MATCHES_RCVD -0.500
score RCVD_IN_RP_SAFE 2.000
score SPF_SOFTFAIL 2.000

SpamAssassin Training

There a few steps to spam training:

  1. user moves spammy messages to the Junk queue
  2. OTRS Generic Agent:"Export_Spam" runs nightly, filtering for tickets which are not in state "Closed successful" passing MessageIDs to otrs.TicketExport2Mbox.pl
  3. otrs.TicketExport2Mbox.pl writes the messages to /var/spool/spam/spam, and changes the ticket's state to "Closed successful"
  4. /usr/local/bin/train_spamassassin picks up /var/spool/spam/spam and feeds it to sa-learn as spam

Ham training is similar:

  1. OTRS Generic Agent:"Export_Ham" runs nightly, filtering for tickets in non-Junk queues which are in states Open, or Closed successful" and feeding those TicketID's to otrs.TicketExport2Mbox.pl
  2. otrs.TicketExport2Mbox.pl writes the messages to /var/spool/spam/ham
  3. /usr/local/bin/train_spamassassin picks up /var/spool/spam/ham and feeds it to sa-learn as ham

The two scripts mentioned above are custom and are installed by puppet from operations/puppet/files/otrs/* in the git repository.


This section is general guidance for a patchlevel update only. Upgrades can be complicated by database schema changes and other issues. There's really no way around reading the upgrade documentation, and testing the updates on a real system based on our existing configuration and database.

  1. fetch new otrs, install to /opt/otrs-X.Y.Z
  2. stop puppet, apache, exim, and otrs cronjobs
    • root@iodine:~# /etc/init.d/puppet stop
    • root@iodine:~# /etc/init.d/apache2 stop
    • root@iodine:~# /etc/init.d/exim4 stop
    • root@iodine:~# rm /etc/cron.d/puppet /etc/cron.d/otrs
  3. create backups of existing code and database
    • root@iodine:/opt# tar czf backup/otrs-3.2.9-20140206.tgz otrs-3.2.9
    • stop a db slave and start dumping the otrs db there
  4. switch symlink, copy config into new code tree, fix permissions
    • root@iodine:/opt# rm otrs && ln -s otrs-3.2.14 otrs
    • root@iodine:/opt# cp otrs-3.2.9/Kernel/Config.pm otrs/Kernel/
    • root@iodine:/opt# ./otrs/bin/otrs.SetPermissions.pl --otrs-user=otrs --otrs-group=otrs --web-user=www-data --web-group=www-data /opt/otrs
  5. check DB schema and upgrade as necessary
    • root@iodine:/opt# ./otrs/bin/otrs.CheckDB.pl
    • follow database upgrade instructions in UPGRADING.md
  6. restart apache, log in as an admin to the web interface and reinstall all addon packages
    • root@iodine:/opt# /etc/init.d/apache2 start
    • ADMIN -> System Administration -> Package Manager
    • Reinstall will be under the ACTION column for each package
  7. recover old sysconfig settings
    • root@iodine:/opt# cp otrs-3.2.9/Kernel/Config/Files/ZZZA* otrs/Kernel/Config/Files/
    • root@iodine:/opt# ./otrs/bin/otrs.SetPermissions.pl --otrs-user=otrs --otrs-group=otrs --web-user=www-data --web-group=www-data /opt/otrs
    • root@iodine:/opt# /etc/init.d/apache2 restart
  8. test functionality
  9. restart exim, manually run puppet (which installs some scripts and reenables cron jobs)
    • root@iodine:~# /etc/init.d/exim4 start
    • root@iodine:~# puppetd -tv
    • send a mail to e.g. info-en and check that it shows up in OTRS
  10. restart slave database