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RHEL 6 for the Clueless: More Servers

Wednesday 19 January 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Because RHEL is essentialy an industrial grade commercial product, you’d have to expect it can run more types of server than most people would ever need.

We covered the Samba server in a previous lesson as the most common need for small or home operations. As long as you have to accommodate Windows clients, Samba is the simplest way to go, since even Linux clients can use it. However, if all you need to worry about is sharing files with other Linux/Unix clients, the NFS (network file system) is really better. It’s not covered in the Deployment Guide, and the only simplified guide I’ve seen is this one. There really isn’t that much to it. Windows can use NFS, and Microsoft offers the software to use it, but they assume you are migrating away from Unix, and will demand some information from you. At that, it only works on the Pro versions of their OS. You could also search for some third party software packages, but it I don’t know whom I would trust for that.

The majority of my computer ministry clients have no use for an FTP server. On top of that, the RHEL Deployment Guide hardly mentions it. However there are already some good, short tutorials on how to get it working. This one is fairly generic, but rather complete. And here’s one which covers the SELinux aspects of configuring your FTP server. RHEL uses the Vsftp (Very Secure FTP) server. The CentOS HOWTO Wiki on Vsftp actually hands it to you with scripts to set it all up. It centers on using a feature called “chroot” — a sort of controlled sandbox which makes it exceedingly difficult for those using your FTP server having any chance of cracking the machine itself. I recommend the TSL script for setup.

Much more popular is the Apache webserver. The Deployment Guide covers it, but in a good bit more detail than you might find useful. Again, some enterprising writers have already given us a head start. This one is short and sweet, covering the bare essentials. Then there is this one which addresses the details of SELinux protections, how to configure for a server which hosts multiple sites, and much more. If you need to enable the secure protocol (https) I really like this one from CentOS Wiki.

But if you are going to go that far, you should consider using the well known LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP). It’s almost trivial adding the MySQL server and PHP. What isn’t trivial is the knowledge necessary to use them. Here is a good generic setup tutorial, but be aware a few of the package names may have changed for RHEL 6. However, cnce you get Webmin installed, you are limited only by what you know about webmaster and system administrator tasks in general. It’s the easiest way to go for the clueless, with some documentation, and for more than just the LAMP server itself. However, I recommend you download the Webmin Manual (PDF). It can make a wide range of system administration tasks much simpler, and people are running entire ISPs this way.

Of course, the big thing with RHEL 6 is the kernel-base virtual machine (KVM), the computer within a computer. It requires some rather powerful hardware. Frankly, I can’t imagine needing it for my clients or myself. Still, the Techtopia series starting with section 33, gives you the shortest path, I think, using Windows 7 as the client OS. You can always plow through the Deployment Guide, of course, but it’s harder to follow. It’s written for well-trained technicians with some experience in that sort of heavy duty server work.

One of the most useful things RHEL can do in an organization is serve as the firewalled gateway. This can be easily combined with other tasks on the same machine. Naturally, it requires your RHEL box to have at least two hardware ports, since one becomes the internal trusted interface, and the other an untrusted interface. Then a standard multi-port LAN switch can feed into the RHEL box if you have a significant number of computers. This is well covered in the Deployment Guide, but you probably would find this page a lot simpler. To do anything special requires you understand firewalls and policies. There simply is no shortcut there, however, the defaults configurable from the RHEL GUI firewall manager are pretty good for most uses.

As with the mail server, most of this is pretty hard to test from a home LAN with a broadband connection. If your ISP permits running a server, but can’t offer a static IP address, you should consider connecting through an external DNS service such as OpenDNS, DynDNS, and number of other free services. They keep track of resolving your domain name to whatever IP address you have at the time. It’s pretty rare when you’ll need to run your own DNS service internally, except perhaps a simple name caching. However, even that is becoming almost pointless, as these external free services are quite reliable compared to even the larger broadband ISPs.

The possibilities of RHEL 6 will quickly outrun all but the most obscure server needs.

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  1. Wednesday 19 January 2011 at 10:55 am

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