Pro Linux System Administration provides models for implementing a Linux infrastructure and builds a foundation for open source business systems management. Authors and systems infrastructure experts James Turnbull, Peter Lieverdink and Dennis Matotek introduce readers to Linux and offer easy-to-understand instructions for system administrators learning the world of Linux. The authors' detailed model allows for business growth and complements the configurations, real-world examples and tips provided in the book. Readers will learn how to build, back up and recover Linux servers; create basic networks with Linux; implement services including mail, Web, databases, and file and print; implement Linux security and recognize Linux performance issues. Pro Linux System Administration targets small to medium-sized business owners, administrators attempting to adopt Linux, and IT systems integrators in need of a complete Linux management approach. Check out this free download of chapter 19 on configuration management by James Turnbull.
We asked the authors a few questions to learn more about the ideas and expert experiences behind Pro Linux System Administration.
What is the need for a book on Linux system administration? What gaps in information have you observed, and how does your book fill them in?
There are some good books on Linux system administration and they cover a lot of interesting ground. We, however, took the approach of developing a book that introduces Linux and teaches the reader how to build a Linux-based environment in a step-by-step manner. People learn the skills as they go. This allows us to introduce Linux to new and existing systems administrators in a structured and simple way that allows them to grow their skills as their environment grows and becomes more fully-featured. We also didn't want to neglect some of the more advanced topics that are often voodoo to new administrators, such as capacity planning and provisioning.
One of the strengths of the book is that it contains lots of places for readers to find information that allows them to take the next step in developing their skills. We don't assume we're going to teach people everything and we want them to develop and grow beyond the knowledge we impart in the book. Overall, the book makes it easy to go from a Linux novice to a Linux professional in a step-by-step fashion.
How did you divide or collaborate the writing of this book?
We divided the book's chapters according to our strengths. James has a strong background in tools like Nagios, provisioning and configuration management so he handled those chapters, Peter has a heavy web administration background so he wrote that chapter, and Dennis has strong skills in backup and recovery and file and print services. We divided the other chapters between us using the same broad principal. We also collaborated and consulted each other on our respective chapters to ensure we didn't miss anything. And we had an excellent technical reviewer who was able to catch any issues we might have missed!
Your book covers all the distros you claim a system administrator may want to use such as Red Hat, Ubuntu, Debian and Centos. Do you recommend or favor any particular distribution?
This question is a never-ending source of discussion and debate. The authors all use and prefer different distributions and we know that distributions have their individual strengths and weaknesses. We took care to not recommend any particular distribution, but instead gave the reader the basic skills to get started with a few of the major ones, so they can make up their own mind. At the end of the day, which distribution a system administrator will choose depends on their requirements and what they find easiest to use and interact with. In fact, this is one of the advantages in the free and open software world; you have a wide variety of software to choose from, so you can work the way you prefer and not the way the software wants you to work.
Book reviews state the layered approach to "Pro Linux System Administration" is unique and distinguishes it from other Linux administration information. How did you set the material and teaching approach within this book apart from other Linux System Administration books?
We appreciate that there are several other good books on Linux System Administration. Our first approach was to bridge the understanding gap between commercial software offerings and Linux by describing the similarities in computer systems where possible. Next, we wanted to make sure that basics of System Administration were explained clearly. But our main aim was to produce a book that a small business could pick up and use as their blueprint for their IT infrastructure as their business continues to develop. This formed the story that runs throughout the book. Each chapter in the book builds on the previous in a layered and relatively linear way. It is this layered approach that we feel sets this book apart from other Linux System Administration books.
In Chapter 19, Configuration Management, you introduce simple provisioning tools. What are the most useful of these tools, and why?
We're really enamored of Cobbler, which is a tool that automates the bootstrapping process. Without Cobbler setting up bootstrapping can be complex and requires configuring PXE boot servers and boot images. Cobbler makes this process easy, simple and repeatable. If you use manual processes now to build your hosts you really should look at Cobbler. James is also a big exponent of linking provisioning to configuration management and Cobbler closely integrates with Puppet to do this.
How does your book ease the entry of small to medium businesses to the world of zero cost software running on Linux?
We recognize that Linux has the reputation of being difficult to understand. We think that reputation is misplaced, and in this book we explain the detail in a way that will be familiar to you. The book starts from choosing your system to installing and describes basic system administration and commands. This is grounding for the rest of the book. Where possible we point to the similarities of operating systems, such as the conceptual parallels between Linux and Microsoft Windows, and provide links to further reading where needed.
Most importantly for small to medium businesses, this book can be used as a blueprint to grow their business from simple beginnings to running enterprise wide zero-cost software. Our layered approach gently takes you through how to build world class IT systems and is designed to help you expand upon your systems as your business grows.
How can implementing a SOHO or SMB Linux infrastructure expand your business and associated IT capabilities?
What do you want to do? With Linux there are no barriers to what you wish to achieve with your business. From humble beginnings to large scale enterprises Linux can grow with your company. You may start with one host and grow to a thousand hosts and your costs for the operating system will remain the same, zero. Take a LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) web installation for example. You can run a sophisticated web site with a large user and developer base. That installation can expand from one to a thousand hosts as you grow with no extra software cost. In communications, infrastructure, web services, and databases Linux and open source software can reliably and efficiently support all your business needs.
Due to the current state of the economy, do you think zero-cost software is becoming more popular? What other benefits does using Linux provide, beyond the cost factor?
At the end the day, many businesses have been using open source software for a long time, but may just not have been aware of it. Network devices such as wireless access points and NAS servers have been shipping with Linux for years. Current economic pressures may have prompted businesses to have another look at their IT expenditure and try out alternatives to their current systems. Linux has matured a great deal in the past few years and a lot of excellent software is available now. Due to its open source - and free as in beer - nature, it's easy for an IT department to trial new open source software, as there is no need to arrange licenses for development servers and trial versions of software. This ease to download and use lowers the entry barrier and allows businesses to discover just how great open source software is, without any risk to them.
This excerpt is from Pro Linux System Administration by James Turnbull, Peter Lieverdink, and Dennis Matotek, published by Apress, Copyright June 2009. For more information on this book, please visit: Apress.com's book catalog.