LJ Archive


All Your Blades Are Belong To Us

Shawn Powers

Issue #187, November 2009

I often say geeks rule the world, and we could take over if we wanted to—we just have better things to do with our time. This issue, we explore that notion and show Linus we're well on our way to world domination. I could go on and on, but I think regular folk might get scared if they realized the degree of access we have to information—mwahahahaa. Putting aside my aspirations to be a modern-day Lex Luthor, this month, we talk about infrastructure. Let's face it, Linux rules the roost when it comes to infrastructure. Heck, even a large percentage of Windows servers are really just virtual machines running on top of a Linux hypervisor.

Bill Childers gets us going with that very topic. If you're planning to virtualize much of your existing server room, picking a hypervisor can be the hardest step. Bill compares and contrasts VMware Server, VirtualBox and KVM. In my own server room, I have only one Windows server, and the fact that it runs on top of a Linux hypervisor makes me smile. Bill doesn't stop there, however; he also argues again this month with Kyle Rankin. Kyle seems to think XFS is the best filesystem to use, while Bill is convinced ext3 is still king. I try to stay out of their little spats, but their discussion is enlightening to read.

Every server room needs storage. For many of us, that's just a few hard drives in a RAID array. As needs grow, however, single-server storage solutions don't scale that well—enter SAN. Usually, that means lots of money to an already expensive infrastructure, but Michael Nugent shows us how to create a Linux-based SAN for a fraction of the cost. Along with the need for large storage solutions, comes the need for redundancy. We also have an article on IPv4 Anycast, where Philip Martin explains how to add availability for mission-critical services. (Anyone that has experienced the “network hang” of a downed DNS server will appreciate the notion of high availability!)

Infrastructure extends outside our precious server closets though, and sits on our desks, in our backpacks and even our pockets. When traveling from location to location, changing networks can be frustrating. Abhinav Pathak, Andrei Gurtov and Miika Komu show us a bit about Host Identity Protocol for Linux and how we can keep our identity no matter where we go. In a similar vein, Joshua Kramer demonstrates the Advanced Message Queueing Protocol, which allows applications to communicate with each other regardless of location. Even if you are telecommuting from the “clouds”, it's important to be connected. A good infrastructure knows no geographical limits—which brings us to an interview I conducted this month....

Linus may be happy with Linux dominating the world, but quite frankly, some people have bigger goals in mind. The IBM InfoSphere Streams Project aims a bit higher, and using Linux as its underlying base, it gathers information about space weather. The amount of data is so great, it has to be analyzed in real time. I like the sound of “Interplanetary Domination” quite a bit, so Mitch Frazier and I took the bull by the horns and interviewed the folks at IBM. I enjoyed the interview; hopefully, you will too.

What about our regular cast of columnists? They're all here this month too. Reuven M. Lerner continues telling us about RSpec, Dave Taylor shows us how to manage latitude and longitude from inside a shell script, and Mick Bauer describes the ultimate conference for hackers, DEFCON. Speaking of hackers, Kyle Rankin tries to explain why arrow keys have no place in our lives as Linux users and strives to turn us all into die-hard vim users. I'm already mostly with him, but I'll admit I use arrow keys. I guess that makes me a n00b.

So although your coffeepot might not be running a Linux kernel and your dishwasher doesn't instant message you when the cleaning cycle is complete, that time is coming sooner than you think. What will our intergalactic infrastructure be based on? My guess is Linux. This month, you can get a jump start on that transition and perhaps have a say on whether your refrigerator will have an ext3 or XFS filesystem—at least, that's what Bill and Kyle are hoping for.

Shawn Powers is the Associate Editor for Linux Journal. He's also the Gadget Guy for LinuxJournal.com, and he has an interesting collection of vintage Garfield coffee mugs. Don't let his silly hairdo fool you, he's a pretty ordinary guy and can be reached via e-mail at info@linuxjournal.com. Or, swing by the #linuxjournal IRC channel on Freenode.net.

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