File Systems


Overview

So you’re working with SLES or SLED, and someone asks you if a particular package or product is supported. What do you do? Of all the options available, I refer constantly to the following pages and references to make sure I give accurate and helpful information to the querying person.

Where to Go

The top page I usually refer people to in this case is the Tech Specs section. On this page is listed SLES, SLED and Partner hardware and software support links. If I click on the “SuSE Linux Enterprise Server” link, I will reach the technical specifications page for SuSE Linux Enterprise Server. We’ve seen this page in other posts, such as How Many ____’s Does SLES Support? – Part I, where we discussed Kernel Limits and File System Features.

The chief thing I want to determine when someone asks me about a particular package’s support is that we do include it in our distributions. I query the person about what version and patch level they want to know about, and then click on the appropriate link, which is listed in the paragraph below the menu tabs, “see the list of supported packages”.

This link leads me to the “SuSE Linux Enterprise Server Supported Packages page, where for example I will pick the link for “SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 SP1 for X86“, a PDF file that I can then search for a package by pressing Ctrl-f, and typing the name I’m looking for, either in my browser, or my PDF reader that popped up.

All Together Now

My example would be someone asking me if there is support for Mono (a Dot Net compatible server solution) on SLES 10 SP1, both on the X86 and System Z platforms.

Those PDF files will tell me very quickly that there is support all the way to Level 3 for SLES 10 SP1 on X86 and the IBM System Z Mainframe.

Hopefully this will help you determine quickly what packages are included in the various distributions and patch levels, and make it easier to find what level of support is provided for those packages.

Enjoy,

RossB

From the article:

When it comes to file systems, Linux® is the Swiss Army knife of operating systems. Linux supports a large number of file systems, from journaling to clustering to cryptographic. Linux is a wonderful platform for using standard and more exotic file systems and also for developing file systems. This article explores the virtual file system (VFS)—sometimes called the virtual filesystem switch—in the Linux kernel and then reviews some of the major structures that tie file systems together.

More here.

Ok, so my title is a little misleading, there’s not any rivalry between the different areas of Novell and SUSE, other than the usual desire to see your business unit succeed just a little more “betterly” than the other units do. It’s all about friendly competition.

What’s Red vs. Green?

What I’m referring to (with Red vs. Green) is the necessary dividing line between the traditional Novell business units like Workgroup (Netware, Open Enterprise Server, Groupwise etc.) which I think of as “Red”, and the newer and Open Source-centric business unit called Open Platform Solutions (SLES, SLED, SLERT, SLEPOS etc.), which I think of as “Green”. (Get it? SUSE Green, like the Gecko?)

I have come up with the analogy and strategy of Red vs. Green as a way of helping partners, customers and the casual passerby understand that depending on which Novell/SUSE products they have, they will likely benefit most from a particular set of products and growth options.

“I See Red”

My experience has been that if a customer is “Red”, they’re almost always firmly ensconced in and using the Novell services throughout the enterprise, with some confusion as to how and why they might make use of Linux. The first order of business is to determine how much they know about Linux in general, and in particular Novell’s use of SUSE Linux Enterprise in it’s product lines. After hundreds of these discussions, we can get everyone on the same page with a little discussion, some Q&A and a handy whiteboard in short order.

How Does This Work?

For example, in a conversation with faux customer Air America, I find they have a long-standing Netware infrastructure for File and Print, do a little clustering for Groupwise and use iPrint for printing with all account management taking place through an Identity management setup and eDirectory. They have Windows workstations that make full use of the Netware Client and it’s services. I’d already lean toward “Red” strategy with them, but they might be toying with the idea of going “over to Linux”, so I go a little further.

The questions I ask them are very simple and straightforward:

  • Do you have any data on NSS volumes?
  • Do you use any of the advanced features of NSS?
  • Do you have Novell Clustering Services or Business Continuity Clustering set up?
  • Do you have a very large number of printers?
  • Do your people have Novell Client software on their computers for access to the network?

A “yes” answer to any of these questions points to the Open Enterprise Server (with Version 2, OES = Linux base, Novell’s standard services converted to run great on Linux layered on top). Novell has spent a lot of time and effort to make it as effortless as possible to have this type of organization migrate up to OES, there is a very complete and clear path for this customer to begin to use Linux-based Novell services with the least disruption possible and often at a considerable cost-savings.

I will try if possible to help them see where “Green” might fit in, either for hosting Groupwise or other services, such as Mono (Dot Net compatible server), Virtualization (Xen) or any of a host of other possibilities. Usually this type of customer will stay “Red” and for good reason.

“It’s Easy Being Green”

On the other side of this equation, I will find customers who don’t have a lick of “Red” in their environment, and these are usually standard UNIX shops on the server side, usually either a Solaris or AIX flavor, some HP-UX, but they’ll be using mostly Windows on the client side. Usually if they say “No” to my “Got any Novell products or Netware around?”, they will go “Green” easily.

The discussion with this client is much easier, they’re a classic “Green” customer, all the services and tools they are used to using have an analog (equivalent) in the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server/Desktop product line. Once I determine they have no Netware products in the organization, we don’t even talk about “Red vs. Green”, it’s not relevant, they can even run eDirectory and Zenworks Linux Management on SLES, no “Red” needed.

I additionally will probe to see if they have any Terminal Server or Citrix/Ericom deployed for application security and updateability, if they do, it makes the Linux Desktop play much more likely, especially if they make use of TS/Citrix as a desktop solution. How compelling is $50 or less a seat for the presentation OS on the desktop versus $239 or so for the oddly-shaped box o’ Vista?

Got any changes or suggestions to this whole Red vs. Green thing? I’m constantly getting feedback and changing it, let me know and I’ll credit you and update it.

Enjoy,

RossB

A new Aberdeen Group study reports that as Virtualization keeps expanding both in it’s role in the datacenter and as a tool for consolidation of services/storage and cost savings, it’s becoming even more vital as a way to provide Business Continuity, High Availability and Disaster Recovery.

For us, virtualization is a given. Our system utilization was low and if there was a peak, it only happened for an hour.

The rest of the time our systems are idle. Our application servers are just not using enough of the physical resources.

— Manager of Portal Operations for a Consumer and Applications Portal Company

The report includes a number of case studies and significant findings, such as:

  • 54% of firms use virtualization to support DR plans
  • 48% use virtualization to support HA strategies
  • 50% use virtualization to support BC implementation

For the typical organization who suffers from excess capacity and the costs associated, virtualization is a must. Along with that move to enterprise level virtualization comes the need for enterprise level business continuity planning.

Since the use of virtualization for BC, HA, and DR purposes is still merging, it is imperative that companies make sure it is implemented with the careful planning and testing of systems. This also will help insure there are no unnecessary redundancies and more efficient process in data recovery management. This latter issue, which is just starting to take hold within the physical world, is certainly going to be the next big issue as more companies use virtualization to support BC, HA, and DR processes.

Recovering data generated from virtualized systems will become a crucial discussion in the coming months.

Register for a free copy of the report here.

Enjoy,

RossB

In my palatial estate in scenic Waltham, Massachusetts, aka my apartment, I have several computers. My two favorite computers to use are my Lenovo X60 (running SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 SP1) and my Apple Macbook Pro running OS X (10.4.10). I also have a whitebox machine from Intel that I use as my server running SLES 10 SP1.

The thought came across my mind the other day that I would like a central way to store and access my music. This way I can save room on my laptop hard drive for “business” items and utilize the larger disk on my server to store higher bit rate songs. (true audiophiles will really appreciate this)

To achieve this I scp’d all of my music files from my my Mac over to my SLES server using OS X’s terminal application located in /Applications/Utilities/terminal. In this example the ip address of my server is 192.168.2.5.

scp -r /Users/username/music 192.168.2.5:/music
The ‘-r’ stands for recursive and allows me to copy over a directory.

Next I setup a NFS server on my SLES machine. NFS is a network file system protocol that allows a user on a client computer to access files over a network as easily as if the network devices were attached to its local disks. This is perfect for our purposes.

To setup a NFS server:

  • Open up YaST: Alt+f2, enter yast2
  • Filter for “nfs server”
  • Check off “Start” under the NFS server section
  • Check off “open port in firewall” if you have a local firewall enabled
  • Hit next
  • Go to “Add directory”
  • Enter the path to your music folder.

Next you need to mount the NFS volume on your local machine

  • On Linux enter (in a terminal as root): mount 192.168.5:/Music /music
  • On OS X enter (in a terminal): sudo /sbin/mount_nfs -P linux:/install /music
  • I had to use the ‘-P’ option to get around an error that said something to the effect of “mount_nfs: Operation not permitted”

At this point you need to configure your desired music players to point to the appropriate directories.

On SLED 10 if you are using Banshee:

  • Open up Banshee
  • Go to Edit>Preferences
  • Make sure that “copy files to music folder when importing” is unchecked
  • Go to Music>Import Music
  • Choose Local folder and navigate to where you mounted the NFS share. (in this example in /music)

On OS X, if you are using iTunes:

  • Open up iTunes
  • Go to iTunes>Preferences
  • Go to the “Advanced” tab.
  • Make sure that the “Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library” option is unchecked
  • Go to File>Import and browse to the location of your NFS mount (in this example /music).

In this example I do not set the machines to automatically mount the NFS share. Each time you reboot you will have to remount the NFS volume, but you shouldn’t have to re-import the music.

Most IT shops would agree… stolen laptops are a security risk. To combat this problem, many organizations are turning to hard disk encryption as a way to prevent loss of sensitive information. Apparently the US Federal government has even mandated that disk encryption be used on laptops with sensitive data.

SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 includes some support for disk encryption natively – look here for more info. But if that does not fit your needs; or perhaps you’re looking for a cross-platform solution; or something that does “whole disk encryption”….

At least one commercial offering is also available: WinMagic, purveyor of hard disk encryption, recently announced that their product SecureDoc will be supporting hard disk encryption on Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop – their first official support of Linux (traditionally, they’ve been a Windows only vendor). The product is expected to be generally available by September 2007.

According to their press announcement

“In recognition of the increased demand for Linux, WinMagic has developed an end-point encryption solution which will make it simple for Linux users to protect data at rest no matter where it may reside,” said Thi Nguyen-Huu, CEO of WinMagic Inc. “In developing and testing SecureDoc for the Linux environment, WinMagic’s main focus was to provide the marketplace with an encryption product that will not yield on performance, functionality, or ease of use,” Nguyen-Huu continued. “Our support for Linux is yet another sign of WinMagic’s dedication to open system standards and to furthering those standards for the data encryption market place.”

(Updated) Found another commercial offering for Linux hard disk encryption… CheckPoint’s Pointsec Hard Drive Encryption. Supports SUSE and Red Hat.

(Updated, Oct 9) Here’s a non-commercial “free” product for entire hard disk encryption… TrueCrypt. Although it does not do “whole disk encryption” it does do partition-level encryption. According to the website it supports openSUSE and Ubuntu.

What’s been your experience with hard drive encryption thus far?? Any other vendors in this space you might be aware of?

SANTA CLARA, Calif. September 12, 2007 Sun Microsystems, Inc. today announced a definitive agreement pursuant to which Sun will acquire the majority of Cluster File Systems, Inc.’s intellectual property and business assets, including the Lustre File System.

Full press release

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