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Security for virtualized datacentres

Sysadmin blog Webmin’s (see my last post if you don’t know what I’m talking about) strength flows from a plethora of modules which allow you to configure and control most elements of the underlying operating system. Common applications - for example, Apache - also have officially-supported modules that ship with the main Webmin installer.

In addition, there is an active community of developers who create Webmin modules for almost any server application you can imagine. Think of it as the Microsoft Management Console (MMC), except that it supports Linux and Solaris as well as Windows. Unlike the Microsoft MMC, Webmin does not require a Windows computer: all you need is a browser.

The range of system control modules is impressive. There is an excellent set of network configuration tools that I find easier to use than the native interfaces on many operating systems. User administration, scheduled task management and resource management deserve accolades too.

Log file management is a snap; there’s a module for that too. I use the log file viewer and its search utility daily, because I don’t enjoy hunting through /var/log/maillog to identify a single email amidst millions using a text editor.

File and disk management is nearly complete. There is an excellent Norton Commander-alike Java-based file manager for those who eschew SSH for basic file tasks. Volume and file system management is done well, as are the modules for mounting or sharing file systems. The frustrating exception to Webmin’s file and disk management completeness is the lack of a DRBD module.

Webmin has modules allowing you to configure and manage clustering. Clustering systems has traditionally been a special magic power reserved for those who type arcane things into a command line and mutter to themselves a lot. With Webmin, I can configure and manage most elements of a cluster with ease, but the lack of a DRBD module does throw a few roadblocks up when trying to create a “perfect” Linux cluster.

To Apache: while I consider the ability to edit httpd.conf by hand a critical skill of any webserver admin, Apache is far more than just httpd.conf. In most operating systems, elements of the configuration have spun off into ssl.conf, php.conf and many others. Webmin brings administration of those files into one place, and gives you an easy-to-use push-button interface as a bonus.

I rely on Linux-based spam servers to sanitise e-mail before it hits my Exchange servers. Webmin ships with mail management modules. Sendmail’s configuration files were designed to be modified by people who think in regular expressions, and so I find the Sendmail module to be a salvation. Without Webmin and its Sendmail module, creating and administering my spam servers would be arduous and maybe impossible.

If you area a systems administrator looking to deploy, or charged with maintaining, a Linux or Solaris system, see if a Webmin module exists for the services you use; it may be critical for your sanity. ®

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