Providing "OECN wide" mail lists without UMP

A brief history of the OECN lists

In the early days (now dark ages) of the OECN, there was a desire by ODE and the OECN to provide "state-wide" email distribution lists to allow users and ODE to reach all OECN users in a particular group (e.g. superintendents, treasurers, etc).  Back then, email delivery and networks weren't as fast as they are today, so we devised a "distributed email list" strategy that allowed each ITC to to maintiain their portion of the list without disclosing the contents of the list.   So when a user sends to oecn_XXXX@oecn.k12.oh.us, the central "OECN server" forwards the mail to each ITC's mail_XXXX@itcdomain.org list.  

To help facilitate creation of the ITC lists, the SSDT developed "UMP" (User Mail Profile). UMP was intended to help ITC's create thier portion of the OECN list.  To encourage adoption, UMP had addtional features like group management, local list management, centralized naming/forwarding, aliases, etc.   Since nearly all ITC's were on OpenVMS and used PMDF, UMP was heavily based on PMDF.

Moving on

UMP was fine when ITC's used OpenVMS as their primary end-point for email and worked reasonably when ITC's used PMDF as their primary MTA (routing to end-point servers).  But these days, ITC's are moving away  (or already have) from PMDF for both endpoint and MTA services.  In these cases, UMP is not a convenient way of maintaining the user lists and can become quite burdensome (Who wants to maintain users in an old green-screen app if you already have users in LDAP or ADS).

Still, the state-wide lists are still quite useful so an alternative way for the ITC's to provide their portion of the list is desireable.

ITC requirement for participating in OECN lists

UMP's generation of the mail_xxxx lists is not magic. From the state-wide list's point of view, the only requirement is that each ITC provide a mail_xxxx@itc-domain.org list that corresponds to each oecn_xxxx list.  ITC's can use any method they desire to create these lists.  For example, if you're using LDAP or ADS+Exchange, you may already have sufficient information in LDAP and could use an LDAP query based list.  Or, you could run a local LISTSERV that has a list for each state-wide list.  Or you could have a list that forwards to individual districts lists on their mail servers and ask each district to maintain thier portion of the list.  Or you could just maintain manual lists on your prefered mail server (e.g. Exchange).

The rest of this blog entry will describe how to substitute your own lists into the state-wide lists without using UMP.

Determine your ITC's "domain" name

As mentioned earlier, the OECN wide lists send mail to each ITC's mail list @itc-domain.org.  The "itc-domain.org" for each participating site is stored in OECN$UMP:OECN$UMP_STANDARD.INI and defined by the SITE parameter.  For example, if you looked for NWOCA's entry, you would see:

SITE="nwoca.org",       250000000,0,"nwoca.ohio.gov",Y

The first first parameter is the domain name that the OECN lists will send to when expanding the lists.  This is the server that must be able to respond to the mail_x lists.   For most ITC's the domain is their primary MX domain name which responds to all of their email and routes to their PMDF server.   However, there is no requirement that this be your primary domain name.  The OECN server can send your mail_x mail anywhere you like.  If the domain name you find in the INI file is not correct, or you want it routed differently, open a USD ticket under SSDT.SMTP and request that your OECN mail be addressed to a different domain.  (You can not change this yourself. The SITE parameter only affects the central OECN mail server).

In any case, the domain listed in the INI file must be the one that knows how to expand the lists or can foward/route to the server that can expand the lists.  Note: It's strongly recommended that the mail_x traffic pass through your normal spam/content filtering.

Construct your lists

Decide how you're going to manage the lists and construct a list for each OECN list.   You can find the full list of OECN lists in OECN$UMP_STANDARD.INI.  Just look for the DEFINE_CODE lines that defines each list. For example, the line:

DEFINE_CODE=SPT, "Superintendents-Pub  ",           SUPT_PUB,"", SPT

Defines the OECN_SUPT_PUB list, so you'll need a corresponding MAIL_SUPT_PUB@yourdomain.org.

Although there are many OECN lists that are infrequently used, it's recommended that you provide a list or alias for every OECN list, even if the list is empty or just contains a forward to your postmaster.  The OECN Postmaster will get unhappy with you if your site generates bounces for undefined lists.

Summary

If your moving away from PMDF for MTA services, you can devise your own method of producing the lists required by the OECN lists.  OTOH, there's nothing particularily wrong with UMP even if you only use PMDf to expand the lists.   NWOCA still uses if for most of our centralized naming and forwarding so we still use UMP to create our mail_x lists.