A crash course in server administration
May 31, 2009 2:52 AM   Subscribe

At work I'm jumping head first into trying to setup and manage a OS X Server to be used for network load balancing, routing, and possibly netbooting a group of machines. Any tips or help appreciated.

I'm currently working retail at a computer sales store that also has an internet cafe of about 30 computers. I've asked for, and been given permission to play around with and attempt to configure, an OS X Server 10.5.7 running on a dual-processor G5 (with 5 ethernet ports, 2 for WAN and the other 3 for each subnet). I've never really used the mac os before, but have a few years of playing around with various linux distros as my desktop os.

For most of these questions I'm not needing direct answers even, I've really just been at a loss trying to find good online resources to read and put it all together. I really want to learn and get a grasp on what's going on, so even just links to reading to get me started would be excellent.

Issue 1: network load balancing. In the store we have two separate DSL lines coming in to serve the whole building. From what I've read so far, it seems that OSX doesn't have this functionallity built-in, and I'm at a loss as to where to start looking for a solution.

Issue 2: Routing. This one I feel like I've gotten really close and am just missing one last step. The goal here is to have DHCP and NAT running for 3 subnets; the tech/service area, the internet cafe, and our internal network. I have the DHCP/NAT/Firewall services all running, and dhcp is working properly giving each subnet an appropriate IP address, I'm able to ping the local server from a client machine, but it's not actually sharing the internet connection to any of the subnets. (Haven't had the chance to hook up a switch to any of the subnets yet either, so don't know if client machines would be able to see each other on the network as well.)

Hypothetical 1: netbooting for the 30+ computers in the internet cafe. As it is currently, the cafe has about 3 or 4 different models of computers all running windows xp. The problem is, they're all regular installations, so if during the course of a days use one gets a virus, we have to manually take a disk to the machine to re-image it. I'd like to set it up to where each machine could just load a fresh image off the network each morning and run like new. This I'm not familiar with at all, and don't even know if OSX can even netboot a WinXP machine.

Besides this there will probably be some basic file sharing and web hosting, but those seem pretty well documented and I'm not worried about getting that running.

So any tips, links, answers, or leads would be excellent. I'm hoping to get this machine configured and possibly even implemented into the network by the end of next week.
posted by meowN to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Issue 1: Load-balancing is not built into Mac OS X or Mac OS X Server. I know of one place that has done this but they had help from a Senior Apple System Engineer and I'm certain that it involved a lot of custom scripting and code. Most places I've seen that have load-balancing or QoS implemented are using a hardware device specifically designed to do it.

Issue 2: The NATural may help you here. I set up a Mac OS X Server a few months ago to be a NAT router and ended up using this third party product to make it work. However, this was on a 10.4.11 server, not 10.5.x. I don't believe the developer has updated the software to run under 10.5.x server yet. You may want to consider 10.4.x server instead since your G5 hardware is older. You'll get better performance, probably.

Issue 3: It is impossible to NetBoot WinXP machines to a Mac OS X Server. Have you considered DeepFreeze? Radmind is now available for Windows but I've never used it.

The best places to find answers to Mac OS X Server and Tech questions are the Mac OS X Server mailing list hosted by Apple and the MacEnterprise mailing list hosted at Penn State. I recommend you subscribe and lurk and search the archives. Also learn how to search the Apple Discussions for answers. Many very knowledgeable people post answers on these forums--some are even Apple employees although they won't tell you that.

Also get to know AFP545.com and MacEnterprise.org. And I've been building a blogroll of Mac Tech blogs at my own blog here.
posted by mrbarrett.com at 6:45 AM on May 31, 2009

Best answer: Regarding netboot, Deploy Studio will netinstall Windows machines with PXE cards (NetRestore was the old standard, but has been discontinued).

Still, I would recommend using DeepFreeze instead for the clients. I've never used it personally, but a lot of other schools around here use it for exactly the situation you describe and it works well from what they say. The entire purpose of DeepFreeze is to restore the machine to its original state on reboot.
posted by jmd82 at 9:12 AM on May 31, 2009

Do you have a compelling reason for using OSX server as the platform for all this? While OSX is BSD based under the hood it has less collective experience available on the web than Linux or *BSD.

I know for a fact that Linux can do all the things you want it to here, maybe start with IPCop and then you can add custom rules to bond two network connections.
posted by Skorgu at 10:09 AM on May 31, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the links so far, lots of great information.

Skorgu: only reason I'm using OSX server on a G5 is because this is what my boss bought and gave to me to work with. I'd be much more at home on a basic core2 system running gentoo. If he had consulted with me before buying the expensive server license, this is what I would have suggested, but I wanted to give this a real solid attempt to see if it was possible.
posted by meowN at 1:27 PM on May 31, 2009

Response by poster: found an easy way to do things.

grabbed an old 3ghz P4 machine that was in the junk pile and installed pfSense. It was everything we needed, and are now going to use the OS X server for... you know... server stuff rather then routing :p
posted by meowN at 10:29 PM on June 11, 2009

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