1 2 Previous Next 21 Replies Latest reply on Jul 21, 2006 10:53 PM by williambishop

    Windows network admin appliance?

    williambishop Master

      Since all of the components I've accumulated are now a single monolithic linux server, I was wondering if anyone would be interested in it.


      This is what it does:


      I build a gold image in vmware server, of XP sp2. I sysprep it with my custom inf files(you'd need to get a drivers folder, as it's a gig by itself). I resize the partition to the lowest value I can. I use G4U to upload it to the vsftp component of my server. I use MIDS(a frontend for G4U) to download the image to the end stations.


      WPKG is used to manage hosts, upgrading software, patches, etc.


      A web server(pmwiki on apache) hosts packages that I built with one of the free packaging installations. It also is the front end where I can simply put in a password, then click the package I want to install. It also holds registry files, package clusters, etc. Adding new links is easy using pmwiki, where I can edit it from anywhere, even sitting at a end station repairing a pc. Additionally, pmwiki hosts the updates page, where techs are informed of changes, scheduling, call lists, etc.


      I use it to maintain a VERY fast build cycle, wherein I can test a build, update it and have it sitting on a server for deployment in a matter of hours. It then is deployed in a matter of minutes(MIDS is the best thing ever! It's so good I named the system MIDS in honor). I can keep the stations upgraded, patched and tweaked using WPKG(windows packager). It is a beginning to end management system, and all of it is opensourced.



      G4U,mids,wpkg,fedora core,vsftpd,samba,apache, pmwiki



      It's really a conglomeration of a lot of other folks hard work, with a little tweaking on my part.


      It is very fast, very flexible, and has cut floor time from days to minutes. I can have a fully built image, including all applications off the server and onto the floor in under 5 minutes, join the domain and ready to work on.


      Included in a temp folder would be iso's for g4u,mids,etc. plus documentation on the process.


      Anyone think this might make a decent appliance? It's probably large, but it could be pared down. I didn't see where there would be a minimum...but I sure wish this had existed when I started trying to figure out how to do all these things.

        • 1. Re: Windows network admin appliance?
          tysonkey Hot Shot

          Does it include Windows inside the distributed image?

          • 2. Re: Windows network admin appliance?
            williambishop Master

            No, somethings you have to do for yourself. I'll include our sysprep inf file, and you guys think it okay, the drivers database, but it's 1 gig by itself. It let's the image support bloody near everything though. Nothing is not open sourced. I'll include directions for the perfect XP build, but it's pretty simple once you have the sysprep file.

            • 3. Re: Windows network admin appliance?
              tysonkey Hot Shot

              Great, idea.

              • 4. Re: Windows network admin appliance?
                williambishop Master

                Okay, a couple questions, as we're working on this now.


                We have the choice of FC4 or FC5...which should we go with? Should we leave a gui so that it's easier to manage? We're also looking at adding in the iscsi target and sticking on an expandable 500 gig second disk so it can also be a pseudo san(yes, I know it's software, but we've been playing with it and really like it).


                So it would be


                A samba share

                A web site that hosts the links to the installers located on the samba share

                a tech website

                A place to store image files

                A means of deploying image files very rapidly

                A means of keeping systems updated without active directory or NDS

                An iSCSI share


                I know it's kind of a hodgepodge, but the way it all interoperates is really useful, it's kind of a desktop support suite. Drop an image, update a host, install new software by weblink, or automatically accross the network.


                We're experimenting with making the /var/www/html folder also be the samba share, so we don't duplicate any files. It reduces security, but makes it more usable.


                You'd think we'd be overworking the system as is, but we are running a 5000 node network on this baby right now, and it's handling it INSIDE A VM, just fine.


                For large volume image deployments, we use a separate rack that has it's own server with 6 nics bonded to a 3550...it does 22 stations at a time in >17 minutes. But the rest of the time we're only pushing out 2 or 3 images at a time.


                One other question, we are kind of doing this in our own time, but donating it where we work as techs...are we still eligible? I mean, we built it a way of saving ourselves time, but it was never a project given to us, we just kind of did it.

                • 5. Re: Windows network admin appliance?
                  samwyse Novice

                  Okay, a couple questions, as we're working on this



                  We have the choice of FC4 or FC5...which should we go

                  with? Should we leave a gui so that it's easier to



                  I'd go with whatever you're using now that works.  The whole point of an appliance is that it's a blackbox whose internal workings are irrelevant.


                  One other question, we are kind of doing this in our

                  own time, but donating it where we work as

                  techs...are we still eligible? I mean, we built it a

                  way of saving ourselves time, but it was never a

                  project given to us, we just kind of did it.


                  Having gone through something similar at a previous job (wrote a PalmOS application), I'd say that it depends on the company's business.  If they produce and sell software similar to your appliance, they might not want you to release it; otherwise they'd probably be glad to sell you the rights to the package for a dollar.  Since everything is built using FOSS, you should be able to convince them to let you release everything to Sourceforge or some other public forum; once they agree to that then getting permission to enter it in a competition shouldn't be too hard.


                  If, OTOH, the package is something that your employer could use to maintain a significant advantage over their competitors, then they are much less likely to let you release it.  In that case, you could try to get a bonus or some other financial recognition from them for your hard work.  I wouldn't recommend submission under an assumed name, since that could land you in legal hot water if it were ever discovered.

                  • 6. Re: Windows network admin appliance?
                    williambishop Master

                    We're a not for profit hospital....so no worries there that I can see.


                    We backed off FC5 and have built it using 4 instead...just too dodgy at the moment.

                    • 7. Re: Windows network admin appliance?
                      williambishop Master



                      We didn't turn this baby in as an appliance, it was WAY over the 2 gig max.


                      But it is available, we're making a two DVD set and giving them away to hospitals and non profit companies.


                      We did go back and use FC5, we stabilized the entire thing and this is the way it sits as of now:



                      apache 2.2


                      Samba 3


                      We combined the samba file share with the wiki and though security is lax....it's a marvelous thing.


                      We added in a VNC deployment utility that pushes out vnc with an info box that sits on the desktop or they can visit the wiki page and using the details provided by the page, call up tech support with their IP or hostname and we connect up that way.


                      It looks like the hospital doesn't mind us sharing this, as it gets the hospital out there more. It's all open source anyway.


                      We're down to making the videos now, basically a "Okay, stick in the dvd now--let's build your tech department from this disk" up to more advanced configurations. Hopefully we'll be ready to start duping the disks by July.


                      The first DVD, containing images is ready, and we've  laid it out so that it autoruns, asks to go to the internet so you can install vmware server or if you have a vm product. It then copies the virtual machines to the local disk(two available, the main product and a small private subnet suse DNS/DHCP server already configured to point to the main server's ip. It then fires it up and brings you to a place where you can either run the configuration wizard for the server, or if you are starting with a small network, you can just start your tech site editing.


                      Timed, on a small network you can be out of the box and running with the tech support system in under an hour. Not to shabby.


                      So, no shot at the money for us, but we're hoping it promotes vmware a bit in some organizations, and it also spreads the open source movement.

                      • 8. Re: Windows network admin appliance?
                        samwyse Novice

                        Any possibility of posting the image(s) somewhere?  I'm a consultant and I see lots of small businesses that could use something like this.

                        • 9. Re: Windows network admin appliance?
                          williambishop Master

                          We're looking for anyone that has the space to hold it...it's quite large, after all, it fits on 2 dvd's. We're burning copies for non profit orgs....but we'll be happy to share with anyone who is willing to host it. Maybe we should torrent it.

                          • 10. Re: Windows network admin appliance?
                            limester Lurker

                            This looks nice, would like to test it out in my own lab.  Any chance of getting this on a torrent?



                            • 11. Re: Windows network admin appliance?
                              williambishop Master

                              I didn't even think of doing a torrent. It's huge, but that might actually work.



                              We could just post the images separate.

                              • 12. Re: Windows network admin appliance?
                                williambishop Master

                                Due to the overwhelming volume of requests on this, we are putting DVD 1 up on a bittorrent Saturday, DVD2 is the Documentation disk, and you can get by without it. Please do not send further PM or email requests until you have downloaded and tested it out a bit.


                                DVD 1 contents:


                                Autorun installation

                                VM1(The main appliance), A tech website, tied to a samba share, with the mids/g4u ftp setup). We'll include the iso's for g4u and MIDS so that you can boot up with them and begin uploading and downloading images immediate.


                                VM2(DNS/DHCP) this suse appliance provides dns resolution and dynamic addressing for a 253 node network for those who don't have a private network to run this product on. of course you can modify this to fill as large a need as you have. And if you already have a dns/dhcp solution, simply add a static mapping for MIDS to it, with the ip you set on the vm1 appliance.


                                Example sysprepf.inf files, batch files, plus the file structure to put on your image. Follow the short how-to(we'll try to include that video) and put the structure in place, download your drivers for the hardware platforms you are supporting, and you can have a universal image up and running in a couple hours. If you ever price the tools that do this, you'll probably like this better than anything else, it generally runs 16 dollars per seat.


                                As always, please thank the original authors(most of them accept donations also, which we have tried to be good about on our meager salaries) of most of these things, we don't build things so much as reconfigure them to our vision, or combine them to fit our purposes. We've found(and gotten a lot of feedback on it) that this particular combination is VERY useful to tech departments. We hope you will find this the case also.

                                • 13. Re: Windows network admin appliance?
                                  williambishop Master

                                  Make that Sunday night, we got several projects....delayed for rain(and crazy managers). Good one for you though, I was asked to "build a database with a web front end so that we can enter information for an enterprise wide inventory--can you have that for me by friday?"


                                  Minor changes include that we went ahead and split it to two dvd's, but the videos aren't included. We'll start bittorrent probably sunday evening, and neither of us have a lot of bandwidth. Email questions, quirks, or any other feedback to develop@hhsys.org and we'll try to stay on top of it. To do the universal image, just copy the file structure over into the root of C: on your image, change the sysprep.inf file to use your domain settings, and run sysprep.bat. Use a small disk, or resize the partition after it is finished with sysprep. Please be patient, unlike your run of the mill sysprep, ours takes upwards of 40 minutes, but you can put it on anything you put driver support in the driver folder for. We left the security chip drivers for IBM's in it, if you don't need it, delete the temp folder batch file.



                                  Added Sunday----


                                  Yay! Beta 1 is done. We're down to the last two sections of video and figuring out how to bittorrent it all up. We'll be sending out the first set of DVD's this friday, we're burning dvd1 now, adding the last two videos tuesday and then burning copies of disc2 on wednesday.


                                  Positives: We've build a dozen boxes that can run headless and you just sit in the corner and forget. They are super stable, so we're happy with it's durability.


                                  Negatives: We just figured out how to cut the size of the vm's by 900%. I guess our next release will be micro vm's that perform the same functions.


                                  Hopefully Rick will have figured out how to get the bittorrents going tonight or tomorrow morning. I know he's putting the videos on his webshare now, so I'll have a link as soon as he finishes.


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                                  • 14. Re: Windows network admin appliance?
                                    williambishop Master

                                    Okay, until Rick get's the bittorrent thing going(he has web server, I don't), we're going to offer it via emule. Do a search for the file



                                    midsdvd1.iso or midsdvd1.rar(which is only 600megs or so)


                                    and it'll come up. We'll add disk 2 maybe tomorrow, and we're finishing up the videos, and we'll probably just host those individually off of his webserver since they're only 4 megs each.


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