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CMS - A Contest Management System


CMS, or Contest Management System, is a distributed system for running and (to some extent) organizing a programming contest.

CMS has been designed to be general and to handle many different types of contests, tasks, scorings, etc. Nonetheless, CMS has been explicitly build to be used in the 2012 International Olympiad in Informatics, to be held in September 2012 in Italy.


CMS is composed of several services, that can be run on a single or on many servers. The core services are:

  • LogService: collects all log messages in a single place;

  • ResourceService: collects data about the services running on the same server, and takes care of starting all of them with a single command;

  • Checker: simple heartbeat monitor for all services;

  • EvaluationService: organizes the queue of the submissions to compile or evaluate on the testcases, and dispatches these jobs to the workers;

  • Worker: actually runs the jobs in a sandboxed environment;

  • ScoringService: collects the outcomes of the submissions and compute the score; also sends these scores to the rankings;

  • ContestWebServer: the webserver that the contestants will be interacting with;

  • AdminWebServer: the webserver to control and modify the parameters of the contests.

Finally, RankingWebServer, whose duty is of course to show the ranking. This webserver is - on purpose - separated from the inner core of CMS in order to ease the creation of mirrors and restrict the number of people that can access services that are directly connected to the database.

Files and configurations are stored in a PostgreSQL database.

There are also other services for testing, importing and exporting contests.

Each of the core services is designed to be able to be killed and reactivated in a way that keeps the consistency of data.

Recommended setup

Of course, the number of servers one needs to run a contest depends on many factors (number of participants, length of the contest, economical issues, more technical matters...). We recommend that, for fairness, there is at least one server associated only to a worker.

As for the distribution of services, usually there is one ResourceService for each server, one copy each of LogService, ScoringService, Checker, EvaluationService, AdminWebServer, and one or more of ContestWebServer and Worker. Again, if there are more than one worker, we recommend to run them on different servers.

Our preferred distribution is Ubuntu >= 12.04 LTS. We will hopefully support Ubuntu 12.04.x out of the box for the length of Ubuntu's support duration, that is five years.

Very important note: up to now, we support only 32 bit distributions.

Saying that, one is not forced to follow the previous rules, and it should not be very hard to successfully run CMS on different distributions or even on 64 bit installations (see the howto about setting up a 32 bits chroot for more information on this).


These are our requirements (in particular we highlight those that are not usually installed by default) - previous versions may or may not work:

  • build environment for the programming languages allowed in the competition;

  • postgreSQL >= 8.4;

  • gettext >= 0.18;

  • python >= 2.7 (and < 3.0);

  • python-setuptools >= 0.6;

  • python-tornado >= 2.0;

  • python-psycopg2 >= 2.4;

  • python-simplejson >= 2.1;

  • python-sqlalchemy >= 0.7;

  • python-psutil >= 0.2;

  • python-netifaces >= 0.5;

  • python-crypto >= 2.3;

  • python-yaml >= 3.10 (only for YamlImporter);

  • python-beautifulsoup >= 3.2 (only for running tests);

  • python-coverage >= 3.4 (only for running tests).

On Ubuntu 12.04, one will need to run the following script to satisfy all dependencies:

sudo apt-get install postgresql postgresql-client python-setuptools \
     python-tornado python-psycopg2 python-sqlalchemy \
     python-psutil gettext build-essential fpc stl-manual \
     python-simplejson python-netifaces python-beautifulsoup \
     python-coverage python-crypto

# Optional.
# sudo apt-get install phppgadmin python-yaml

If you prefer using Python Package Index, you can retrieve all Python dependencies with this line (see below for the meaning of $REPO):

sudo pip install -r $REPO/REQUIREMENTS.txt

Obtaining CMS

For every server, one needs to retrieve CMS. Since CMS does not yet have a release schedule, the fastest way to obtain it is via its git repository:

sudo apt-get install git
git clone git://

This will create a directory ./cms/ with the source code, that we will refer to as $REPO in the following.

Configuring and installing CMS

There are two configuration files, one for CMS itself and one for the rankings. Samples for both files are in $REPO/examples. You want to copy them to the same file names but without the ".sample" suffix (that is, to $REPO/examples/cms.conf and $REPO/examples/cms.ranking.conf) before modifying them.

  • cms.conf is intended to be the same in all servers; all configurations are explained in the file; of particular importance is the definition of core_services, that specifies where the services are going to be run, and how many of them.

  • cms.ranking.conf is intended to be different on each server that will host a ranking. The addresses and log-in information of each ranking must be the same as the ones found in cms.conf.

Once configured, we can proceed to install it using the commands:

cd $REPO
./ build
sudo ./ install

These will create a user and a group named "cmsuser". If you want to run CMS from your account, just add yourself to the cmsuser group and log-in again before continuing:

sudo usermod -a -G cmsuser

You can verify to actually be in the group issuing the command


Updating CMS

To update CMS, run the following:

cd $REPO
git pull
./ build
sudo ./ install

Since CMS is still in heavy development, we are introducing many changes in the database structure. If you created a database with a previous version, you may need to run to organize the data in the new structure:

cd $REPO/cms/db
python -l # To see which updating scripts are available.
python -s YYYYMMDD # To update the DB, where YYYYMMDD is
                               # the last date in which you created or
                               # updated the DB.

Running CMS

Before running CMS, you need to create in some way a contest. There are two main facilities: cmsContestImporter and cmsYamlImporter. The former load into the system a contest exported from CMS with cmsContestExporter. The latter imports a contest from a directory with the structure of the Italian Olympiad repository.

Once a contest is loaded, the first thing to run is the logger (from the correct server!):

cmsLogService 0

After that, for each server you can run (and keep alive) all services associated to the server with:

cmsResourceService <shard-number> -a

where shard-number is the shard associated to the ResourceService on that server. This will ask for which contest to load. The "--help" switch is enabled for every program for additional information.

If a service keeps restarting you may need to change "process_cmdline" in the configuration to one more suited to your system.

In particular if there are more than one ContestWebServer, one may want to use a load balancer. We recommend to use nginx; a sample configuration is provided in $REPO/cms/example.


CMS has been used in several official and unofficial contests. In particular we are aware of the following:

  • OII 2011 (Italian Olympiad in Informatics), September 2011;

  • AIIO 2012 (Australian Invitational Informatics Olympiad), February 2012;

  • FARIO 2012 (French-Australian Regional Informatics Olympiad), March 2012;

  • training camps for the selections of the national teams of Australia and Italy;

  • laboratory exercises and exams of the course "Algorithms and data structures" at University of Trento (year 2011-2012).

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