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Book Review: Netfinity and SuSE Linux Integration Guide

  An initiative of the NLUUG
Ralph de Rijke  20-02-2000

Title Netfinity and SuSE Linux Integration Guide
Authors Jakob Carstensen, Lenz Grimmer, Ivo Gomilsek, Jay Haskins, Joe Kaplenk
Publisher An IBM Redbook published by IBM's International Technical Support Organization

Corporate IT continues to reinvent its attitude to Linux by the month. Two years ago IBM was effectively Linux-unaware; suddenly, Big Blue was planning its own Linux distribution and free Linux ports of its applications. While these have yet to materialise, the Redbook series is the fruit of an interesting IBM initiative which brings together a small team of IT specialists and users to work on two- to six-week 'residencies' that concentrate on specific areas of interest to IBM's customers - and to produce a Redbook in the process. Free for download as hefty .pdf files from the redbook website, and for sale on CD or as red-bound softbacks, they make an agreeably unpretentious and friendly impression, given IBM's weighty corporate identity.

The Netfinity and SuSE Linux Integration Guide addresses a fast-growing market. Big Blue's popular Netfinity series comprises a range of inexpensive, flexible, scalable, Intel-based, multiprocessor servers. However, their users have been looking a lot harder recently at the alternatives to the comparatively costly, vulnerable and inflexible Microsoft platforms that have almost invariably been run on these machines in the past. SuSE, already Europe's most successful Linux distribution, continues to make waves in the business world with a rapid succession of releases that provide advanced hardware support, KDE and GNOME, SuSE's own installation, administration and configuration programme YaST, and a slew of CDs with some 1500 programs, including Star Office, WordPerfect 8, Real Player, the FreeS/WAN Linux VPN implementation, and an FTP Proxy Suite. It's a winning combination, and both IBM and SuSE are clearly determined to get a piece of the action.

This redbook sets out to to help Linux newcomers to install, tailor and configure SuSE 6.2 on a variety of Netfinity servers, while the information also naturally applies to any similar hardware platform. It covers basic installation, configuration and system administration, ServeRAID, DNS, Samba, Apache and IBM HTTPD, ipchains, DCHP, sendmail (with a plug for postfix), NFS, NIS, LDAP, the BRU backup system, and even Beowolf clustering. Some useful attention is also given to performance tuning. The explanations are necessarily concise, not to say terse, in a 250-page book, and it is clearly directed towards existing system and network administrators who need little introduction to the various networking services described and who will immediately appreciate the benefits that this sort of networking power, tunability and flexibility confers. It assumes that the reader has a 'favourite editor' under UNIX, so if you don't, you'll need to learn one. Frequent reference is made to further reading and web-based information (most but not all of these URLs work, as usual). It is compatible with SuSE 6.3, the current distribution.

The talented Redbook team was led by a Dane and included a German and a Slovenian. As a British native speaker and professional translator, I would have liked the opportunity to proofread the text for them; in English, the simple present and present continuous are surprisingly sensitive issues! That said, it is still a model of plain and understandable language. As an ISP system administrator, I was also particularly pleased and impressed with the book's straight-to-the-point, pragmatic approach and the comprehensive list of network services it sets out to cover. I shall certainly be using it when I set up my first Linux-based home network, even though I run Red Hat rather than SuSE Linux.

If you are thinking about setting up a file and/or network server, this may be the book that persuades you to go for a SuSE-Netfinity solution. If you are currently running network services on Netfinity and you are interested in finding out how Linux can do the same job as NT - only more affordably, securely, flexibly and reliably - then go straight to the Redbooks site and take a look for yourself!

Other articles by Ralph de Rijke:

  • Book Review: Learning Red Hat Linux
  • E-mail: Ralph de Rijke

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