September 2015 – What’s coming to cPanel

September 2015 – What’s coming...

cPanel Roadmap in 2015 into 2016

We are shameless cPanel fans here at BWF being the control panel of choice for all our shared, business and reseller servers. 80% of our managed VPS server clients have also chosen to license cPanel and this product makes the day to day management of their servers a breeze.

A few of our team were at the cPanel conference in Denver Colorado in September 2015. This is an important conference for us as it provides our staff with three days of training in the product and in turn ensures we serve our clients better.

One of the non technical seminars – “The cPanel Roadmap” – was attended by Stephen K from our management team and there follows a summary of what you can expect in cPanel in the next year.. Some of these features may not apply to shared hosting clients but we felt one comprehensive blog post would give everyone the information they need.

cPanel versions
The old version numbering system was somewhat pointless. Every version number started with 11.xx – the simple change is the number 11 is being removed from the next version. 11.50 is the current version and the next version will be just 52 with the next version 54. When version 52 is released you will simply notice the 11.50 version at the top right is replaced by 52

cPanel Release Frequency
Right now cPanel releases 3 new versions per year. In 2016 the cPanel team are moving to 4 major updates per year. Of course any security patches will continue to be pushed out as needed and the new frequency does not affect this.

52 – EasyApache version 4
EasyApache is something most clients will never need to use given that we provide a fully managed service. That said, in the new cPanel version 52 version 4 of EasyApache will be the default. Our System Administrator Ben P was at the specific training session for this package and will be blogging about this in the coming days.

52 & 54 – Courier Mail Server
In version 52 the Courier Mail Server will become deprecated with Dovecot being the only supported mail server. This means it will still be there and available for use but will no longer be recommended or supported. In version 54 Courier will be completely removed and will not be available. This is not a concern as 99% of all servers currently run Dovecot so this change will only affect a handful of clients who we will work with to resolve quickly.

54 & 58 – x3 cPanel Theme
The x3 theme that you either love or hate is being deprecated in version 54 and will be completely removed in version 58 (12 months from now). The default theme will be Paper Lantern. As you may know we already moved 90% of clients over to Paper Lantern a number of months ago. The handful of clients who expressed concern at this were moved back to x3. Sadly those clients will need to move away from x3 within 12 months. The good news is there is a skin for Paper Lantern to make it look very much like x3 so hopefully this will result in happy clients all round.

That said we do encourage you to move to Paper Lantern. The team were showing us how they are crafting changes in this theme and how they have employed an ‘Iconographer’ (that was a new term for us!) to ensure the icons are well designed. One attendee at the conference expressed concern that the Paper Lantern Icons treated clients like babies in that they were twice the size of the x3 icons – cPanel took that on board and suggested that person put in a feature request to have an option to change these.

54 – Unified Authentication
This is a welcome change. Coming in version 54 is Unified Authentication for FTP, MySQL, FTP and Webdisk services. Why is this welcome? Let’s say you are the admin of a cPanel account and you create an ftp account for someone else. Now suppose that person needs to change their ftp password – currently this is not possible and only the cPanel account holder can log in to make this change. Given that the cPanel account owner may have sent that password via email this leads to insecurity. Giving clients unified authentication and the ability for them to change their passwords without needing to contact the cPanel account owner is significant and much more efficient.

Long Term – Delegated Access and Roles
eg restricted cPanel experience to User X. A long term goal leading on from the Unified Authentication is to allow delegated access and roles. Again this is massive and kudos to cPanel for taking this request on board. Many times we get requests from clients to ask if we can give their web developer for example restricted access to their cPanel account and at the moment we need to tell those clients it is not possible. We’ll be keeping up to speed on where this feature request gets to and once something is concrete we’ll let you know.

54 – OpenID Connect
Improvements are coming to authentication that will allow hosting providers to centralise their logins for WHM / cPanel / Webmail. Heck if you wanted you could allow people to log in via their Facebook or gMail accounts (opens security questions for sure). Setting Facebook aside there is good potential for using this though to centralise logins and give a better experience.

54 – 2 Factor Authentication
At Last! Coming in version 54 is 2FA for logging into WHM / cPanel / Webmail. Software (such as Google’s Authenticator tool) and Hardware options (such as a device giving an ever changing code) are going to be supported.

54 – IPv6 Only as an option
Don’t Panic! Don’t Panic! This does not mean in version 54 you must switch to IPv6! It just means that finally in version 54 if you wanted to deploy a cPanel server using ONLY IPv6 addressing it will be possible. In this instance the server will not have any IPv4 addresses attached to it. This is welcome. Out network has supported IPv6 for a while so it’s cool this will now be an option. That said, most ISPs in the UK do not have IPv6 switched on at the router level for home or business users so it’s likely to take a while for anyone to request such a server from us. But the great news is the option is there.

54 – Nginx officially supported
Nginx (pronounced engine-x) is a free, open-source, high-performance HTTP server and reverse proxy that can be used to increase the performance of a web server. We have many clients using this product already on their cPanel servers but until version 54 this has not been officially supported. Until now you have to use third party plugins that had never been fully tested by the cPanel team and many although worked and were free were used at the client’s own risk. It’s most welcome that cPanel are now officially rolling out support for Nginx and hopefully this will encourage more of our VPS clients to try this to give a boost in performance to their servers.

54 – Directory Syncing
Directory Syncing across multiple servers is being supported from version 54 onwards. This opens up a wealth of possibilities for using cPanel across multiple servers and clusters. We’re watching this with interest to see if this will be of any use to us. Presently where we deploy multiple servers for a client we never use cPanel and always use bare linux with sync scripts enabled. We’re not sure if this will change for us but this new feature may open up the use of cPanel as a possibility.

52 – Multi PHP Version Support
We have had Cloudlinux PHP Selector on our shared, business and reseller servers for years so this is nothing of benefit to these clients. For our VPS & Managed Dedicated Server clients who do not have Cloudlinux PHP selector option this is a significant change. cPanel are bringing out a native PHP Selector tool from version 52 (soon!) so all clients will be able to set a base PHP Version on their server but for individual domains set a specific PHP version for only that domain name. This will be useful for VPS clients who perhaps have older custom scripts that need older PHP versions whilst needing the latest stable version for production sites and the most up to date version for development work and testing. There will soon be complete flexibility. The use of this alongside EasyApache 4 will be significant. It’s currently available on the EDGE release but we do not recommend VPS clients upgrade just yet as it’s still in testing. Once it is released and we are happy it works well we will be alerting all VPS and Server clients to this feature.

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