It cannot have gone unnoticed that Dell is courting the idea of Linux preinstalled on their systems. Whilst this is hardly anything new in the realms of their Server delivery the prospect of being able to choose from a wider range of operating systems at any level is invaluable to me. Since I earn my income from the promotion and advocacy of OSS in the small and medium sized business market I wanted to write a little about what goes into delivery Ubuntu on the server to my clients.

The first aspect in the delivery is the choice of server and given that you will not need to have as much power in a a server as you would for a typical Windows delivery I can choose a much smaller specification and still get good value for my clients. The two servers of choice for me are the Poweredge SC440 and SC2950 The purchase of which is dependent on the amount of clients workstations to be served and potential roles as well as physical location of the server , e.g. is it rack mounted.

I always order a 3 Year Next Business Day warranty from Dell as I have found this to be the right price point for clients who want hardware reliability and are not to worried about down time, these are small and medium sized businesses after all and they can sustain a lack of availability. Since storage prices have come down dramatically I order two hard drives of the same size approximately 80GB though more on this later. The final choice on the server configuration is of course to deliver it withouth a operating system pre installed, since I wont be installing Red Hat for my clients.
Once the server is delivered I can start the installation process which takes about an hour. I install Ubuntu 6.10 Server and choose both DNS and LAMP installation options irrespective of the need for them. I get the server on the network and as soon as possible run the Updates to the packages and amend the sources file to use the net directly. Open-SSH Server is installed to enable me to return to my own desk and begin work. Now I am working via ssh to the server I begin with the basic package requirements for my clients which have consisted of Samba and Exim. I update the VI package to Vim because I prefer the ability to use cursor keys and I am used to the extended Vi functions. Ive been making good use of the Koivis directions on install Exim4 with Spamassasin and Clam AV and of course the standard Courier Imap implementation handles emails. Finally I grab the build-essentials package down and then re run the update and upgrade process one more time. Thats it for installation of the Ubuntu distribution. The server is rebooted a few times to make sure services are coming backup and I am getting the installation I require.

So what about the other disk ? The Server installation is mirrored to the other harddrive providing a snapshot of the installation. I then add a script to sync ( thank you rsync ) the first disk to the second disk. In the event that the primary drive dies I can swap over the cables and reboot no need to reconfigure beyond that. Having Rsync on the box also enables me to run a script to remote backup the server to my own backup service providing customers with off site backup. Thats all for the configuration and the server is returned to its box and I take it onsite to deliver to the client.
So if i could purchase a Dell server preinstalled with Ubuntu then I would require the packages discussed above to have been pre installed. If there was one more opportunity Dell could have with open source it would be to provide its own remote backup service with a next day delivery of the backup disk ( the whole hard drive, this is Linux after all ) if needed.
I have been promoting and installing Open Source software for over 8 years now and its never been easier to deliver and install a Server or Desktop system. Dell if your serious about delivery and service then I cannot stress how much added value OSS has provided my own business and how much benefit OSS is to a client. If you would like an example here is the current uptime on a Poweredge 2650 delivered back in 2005.

nik@south:~$ uname -a
Linux south 2.6.12-9-386 #1 Mon Oct 10 13:14:36 BST 2005 i686 GNU/Linux
nik@south:~$ uptime
08:32:33 up 503 days, 21:49, 2 users, load average: 0.00, 0.07, 0.07

That server has been serving Files and Emails and running a internal Purchasing system for 20 users. Its needed little or no management other than checking backups have been running. Im very pleased with my purchases of Dell hardware for my clients and I am happier because Free and Open Source software enables clients to run their businesses their way without constant licensing and cost restrictions of other Operating systems.

So Dell if you do get a chance to read this Blog entry please, please put the Penguin in my Poweredge and make mine an Ubuntu.

Thank you for reading.

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3 Comments on “S2D2

  1. Is there some reason you are using rsync rather than setting the drives up in a RAID mirror? It sounds like RAID would be a much better solution, in the event of drive failure the machine would just keep working without having to do anything.

    Also, would it not be easier to do this once, image the drive and then just restore the image to each new machine. Even if some updates and/or customisations are needed beyond that it would still save quite a bit of time I would think.

  2. Gavin, yes your absolutely correct about the Raid Mirror.However when I am working with remote hands or bringing in external support or just directing a client on the phone the Raid mirror is another level between the client and their data. I admit here I sacrifice coherency of data ( it being upto 12hours behind ) for simplicity of plug it and shove it. But thanks for the comments.