Server Admin on Linux

Apple recently announced the end of the Apple Xserve. The data center is a funny thing, and being such rack space is critical to most who spend a lot of time there. Many of the previous Xserve customers will continue to buy Mac Pro’s and use them in racks as tall Xserves. Others will purchase Mac Mini’s and use them for certain situations. But many will move on to using the same iron in the data center that they use for everything else, finding a way to duplicate or replace the functionality that was previously in the Xserve with something else.

Server Admin is not going to run on Linux. But you can get kinda’ close and if you really miss the GUI for DNS (not likely) and the other services (possible and in some cases highly likely) then you can hax0r the stuff to look as much like Server Admin as you want. In fact, given the number of developers and the open source nature, the tools available on Linux are likely to even blow away what you could do before. However, there’s a much steeper learning curve and that’s why many (not all) in the Xserve camp have stuck it out with Apple all these years.

The easiest and most mature of the solutions that can be used here is Webmin. We’re going to look at installing Webmin on an old Dell Dimension 5150 that’s running Ubuntu Server 10. Warning, there’s gonna’ be some command line here to get ya’ started, but feel free to cut and paste.

First up, install the webmin dependencies. Dependencies are to many the most frustrating thing about working with Open Source software. But never fear, the Webmin team has posted their dependencies as perl libnet-ssleay-perl openssl libauthen-pam-perl libpam-runtime and libio-pty-perl. So, let’s install those with elevated privileges, using apt-get:

apt-get install perl libnet-ssleay-perl openssl libauthen-pam-perl libpam-runtime libio-pty-perl

Next, let’s install Webmin itself. Download Webmin:

wget http://prdownloads.sourceforge.net/webadmin/webmin_1.520_all.deb

If that fails, check the version at the Webmin site and re-run using the correct URL, listed on the site. Once you’ve downloaded, it’s time to install. One of the reasons (in my opinion) that Ubuntu is so popular is that like Apple they use a package-type of format for installers. Therefore, think of the dpkg command like the installer command in Mac OS X when used with the –install or -i operator. So assuming your working directory is where you downloaded that package to (*.deb)

dpkg -i webmin_1.520_all.deb

Once it’s finished fire up a web browser and go to port 10000 on your box. You should be prompted to authenticate, which can be done using root as the username and the root password of your box as the password. Once done, go to the module page or search for a third party module if the package you’d like isn’t include, and download the modules you need.

I’m not a huge fan of Webmin, but I’ve heard a lot of talk about “wouldn’t it be great if there were something similar to Server Admin”. Well, the way Roles work in Windows Server is similar and Windows Server can pretty much do anything (include make me coffee). If you are averse to Microsoft servers and/or paying per CAL for licensing, plugging modules into Webmin is pretty darn close as well. Looking at services included in Mac OS X Server, Webmin can manage FTP (Frox/WU-FTP/ProFTPd), NFS, Samba, SSH, SpamAssassin, Squid, Apache (and Webalizer), VPN (PPP/PPTP/IPsec), Mail (Dovecot/Postfix/Sendmail/Procmail/Majordomo), database (MySQL/PostgreSQL), Shorewall, LDAP w/ Kerberos, DHCP, Bind, Jabber, CVS/Subversion, VNC and even Bacula (replacing that Time Machine server concept).

You have way more choices (which isn’t always a good thing). Sure, Webmin is not nearly as pretty as Server Admin and it has many of the same issues of interpreting what are in config files and developing a WTF complex if you make a change in one place vs. the other. But it can also manage VMs and do a lot of other things (ie – monitoring). I still prefer Mac OS X Server for a lot of things, but if someone adds Netatalk (trivial), ports the Apple .schema file in and DAViCal/CardDAV, you’ve got a new version of spaghetti open source pretty similar to Server Admin. A little CSS and you can even make it look just like Server Admin.

Not everyone is going to want to use Ubuntu. I personally end up using Redhat more than I do any other flavor of Linux. For Redhat users, getting Webmin installed is actually even easier. Simply run rpm, specifying the package and you’re off to the races:

rpm -U webmin-1.520-1.noarch.rpm

Finally, I really and truly do not condone a knee-jerk reaction to Apple’s decision to terminate the Xserve. Unless Sarah Connor can do something about it I don’t think it’s coming back. If you absolutely have to move certain services to a different 1U box, then here ya’ go. Otherwise, stay with those new MacPro Servers, you’ll be happier with them in the long run!

2 Comments

  • Lucas Saldanha
    November 7, 2010 - 7:14 pm | Permalink

    Hi,
    I follow your blog and I would like to salute you for it. It’s great!

    While I’m on it, I was taken aback (like every one else) for this move from Apple (and like this) and was thinking how to workaround some things.
    While I do not agree with the Mac Pro and Mac Mini as substitutes, they’ll be much more “close” to a substitution if you could “clusterize it”. In other words, if you could set up two identival machines with the same services and make them work together with load balance and failover. In that way, at least, the “redundant power” and “less downtime” doens’t come up. The size and LOM would still be a problem, but just clusterizing would be great!
    What do you reckon?
    Cheers,

    • November 8, 2010 - 1:41 am | Permalink

      I reckon that I suck at prognostication, but, were I to try I would guess that Apple will announce something that makes us all say, “Oh, I see what they were thinking.” Just wish it had been ready when they announced the death of the Xserve, so my mailbox would be a little less wacky looking right about now… ;)

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