Virtualization Gripes (part 1)

Virtualization is not new, it has been around for a number of years. So why are so many software vendors afraid of it, and even worse hostile to it? We run a number of different application that have license managers for their software. These license managers are often a service and sometimes a hardware lock / dongle that runs on a server that all of the clients connect to for permission to use the software.

We’ve successfully virtualized many of these servers (they are great candidates because they are so often extremely under utilized when on physical boxes). The ones with hardware dongles pose some problems (I’ll save that for another post). Then along comes a product from ETAP. They will let you virtualize their application (which is extremely resource intensive), but they prohibit (i.e. software won’t run) you from virtualizing their license manager. This is completely insane! Their silly little license manager use very little memory, and almost zero CPU cycles. In our case it may handle one or two requests for a license a day (if that), and I have to install it on a physical box. What a PIA. 

In a plea to all software developers, “you have nothing to fear from allowing your software to be virtualized.” We are not trying to steal your software, we’re just trying to maximize our investment. Let alone allow us to be better prepared for disaster recovery. In fact, by making it difficult/impossible to virtualize is going to cost you money in the long run as I will strongly denounce your product and actively push our company (and others I deal with) to avoid your products and find alternatives that support virutalization.

Review: SB EventLog Monitor

SB EventLog MonitorI have only one thing to say about this product, “How did I ever live without it”. If you manage more than one Microsoft Windows Server then you definitely need to be using SB EventLog Monitor.

So what does SB EventLog Monitor do that is so great, it collects, collates, and reports via a web interface upon Microsoft Event Log data. The UNIX world has had syslog forever and a ton of tools to help you manage the logging data generated by servers. I’ve even tried to shoehorn Microsoft Event Log data into some of those products, but it was never a good fit. SB EventLog Monitor allows you to quickly and easily manage and analysis what is going on across all of your servers. It allows you to quickly and easily view and filter error messages from different servers and identify patterns. This is particularly useful with dealing with multiple servers across slow WAN links.

It collects the Event Log data either via a Microsoft VB script that use WMI to collect only the new events or via an agent that you can install on your servers. The other requirements are MySQL, PHP (5.0+), and a web server (apache, IIS). While the install is geared towards running everything on a Microsoft server it is possible to run the database and web server on Linux. In fact that is what I did. The install is really pretty easy, so if you are looking for a relatively simple way to increase the manageability of your servers, then I strongly recommend that you take the time to install the open source SB EventLog Monitor.

Cacti’s Painless Network Monitoring

For the past week I’ve submersed myself in the world of Cacti, and have been have a lot of fun making cool graphs. As my staff will attest, I’m really big into monitoring anything and everything on our network. I find it’s very helpful to be able to track usage, capacity, growth, and a bunch of other things. Without some kind of baseline how do you know if things are operating as they should?

Oh, so you’re wondering what Cacti is, well here is the developer’s description:

Cacti is a complete network graphing solution designed to harness the power of RRDTool‘s data storage and graphing functionality. Cacti provides a fast poller, advanced graph templating, multiple data acquisition methods, and user management features out of the box. All of this is wrapped in an intuitive, easy to use interface that makes sense for LAN-sized installations up to complex networks with hundreds of devices.

Anyway, I’ve been using MRTG for last 8+ years to graph utilization, etc. It was a great product, and I’ve built up a number of useful scripts and hacks to monitor all kinds of things from Windows boxes to printers to email queues. I’ve even built a neat menu system, but it was a real hack. It was hard to manage, add devices, or even make changes. I’ve followed the RRDTool world for a while (and even moved my MRTG configs over to using RRD), but never found a solution that was easy to use and had the flexibility I wanted/needed. That was until I stumbled across Cacti.

Cacti has a templating system that makes adding new devices easy, it as an active user community that is sharing their templates for graphs, and device monitoring. It is really powerful and actually quite easy to use. It even integrates with Nagios, although I have yet to accomplish that integration. In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing my adventures with the installation and configuration as well as some of the templates that I have used and created/modified. So stay tuned for further post about Cacti.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to everyone from the Nerhood family. I hope you have a wonderful holiday filled with warm thoughts and memories. You probably won’t see any updates until the new year, but you never know.

Ellie drew the picture with TuxPaint, a wonderful open source, cross platform drawing package for kids. Click the picture to view a bigger version.

Software for Your Mac

Mike over at JeepinXJ is almost ready to buy a Mac mini. He’s been asking about what software he’ll need to install in order to replace his Linux box. Instead of just sending him an email, I figured I post my list so that other could comment on it as well.

Fink is like yum for macs. It installs linux packages on your Mac. – I used it to install a number of things including wget, mtr, and lynx.

Darwinports is the other package installer for Mac OSX. (I have not used it)

Mike uses the No-IP dynamic DNS service so he’ll need MacOSX client download package. I obviously haven’t tried this one. If you have problems with this one, you could always try downloading the linux one. I use DynDNS for my dynamic DNS and they have a Mac client as well.

A good site with PHP install packages for Mac is Marc Liyanage’s site. This is what I would use if I were doing it again. It works with the out of the box Apache 1.3 on Mac OS or an Apache 2.0 install. (He also has some other stuff as well).

You can now install MySQL directly from a MySQL Mac OS X package on their site. (note it is about 3/4 of the way down the page)

I used the packages from Server Logistics to install Apache2, MySQL, and PHP. I would recommend not using them seeing has how they have not been updated in a long time.

PostfixEnabler, helps gets postfix and IMAP working on your box. Great App It also can setup POP3 and IMAP servers as well.

DNS Enabler helps you configure the box as a dns server (again very handy)

I haven’t tried WebMon, but it looks interesting for installing PHP, Apache and WebDAV support (this allows you to supposedly share iCal information).

A couple of other Mac OS X – Apache, MySQL, PHP server install packages exist. MAMP and XAMPP are two. I haven’t tried any of them, but a little research would be in order. Note the MAMP people do not recommend running as a production server (mostly for security), XAMMP always says that, but they do offer a script to tighten the security down. The nice thing about these two packages is that they come with the PHP eAccelerator already installed (it makes a big difference on PHP performance)

Probably the best Mac news site is MacInTouch, but there are also MacFixIt and MacNN as well for keeping up to date on the latest Mac information.

If you have your favorite, must have Mac OSX application/site please leave a comment.