Hands on: Implementing OS X 10.3 (Panther) Server

At the time I started writing for Computerworld just over a year ago, I was implementing a managed desktop environment here at Hunter College using Mac OS X 10.2 (Jaguar) Server, a process I detailed in several columns. This year, Apple Computer Inc. released a major upgrade to the server product called Panther, and being the technojunkie I am, I jumped at the chance to reconfigure my environment and implement it.

Actually, you don't need to reconfigure your entire environment to reap the benefits of Panther server, but I chose to do so because I had new hardware to add and needed to migrate and consolidate existing services. In particular, I wanted to implement Open Directory so that in the future I could just add machines into my domain and not have to reconfigure, and I needed to set up support for a lab of Windows XP machines.

In upcoming articles, I will detail the process I went through, from hardware setup, desktop build and deployment, and server configuration to backup implementation. And I plan to spell out the good, the great, the unchanged and the downright bad parts in Apple's latest release of its OS X server software. Some of this might apply to your environment, some will be overkill, and some of you will think my environment is more like a small business than a large enterprise. But I have tried to design the system from an enterprise perspective, taking into account future growth and the need for distributing administration while retaining control.

With the backing of Hunter College President Jennifer Raab, our school was able to purchase a second Xserve, new G5s and an American Power Conversion Corp. (APC) rack-mounted uninterruptible power supply (UPS). And soon we will have an Xserve RAID that will be dedicated to digital video editing for our graduate and film programs. That's an implementation I am looking forward to!

In order to appreciate where this latest build goes, I should explain what was previously in place: I had two labs with Power Mac G4s running as managed desktops and an Xserve DP acting as file server and authentication server in a NetInfo domain, a G4 desktop was the Web server, a second G4 running Retrospect was connected to an Advanced Digital Information Corp. Fastor linear tape open to handle backup, and a Dell PowerEdge 350 running Windows 2000 Server in a stand-alone configuration was used for print and file services for Windows.

Each lab was connected to a Catalyst 2900 switch from Cisco Systems Inc., which switched 100Mbit/sec. to each desktop with a 1GB uplink over Fibre Channel to the distribution. The data center is also connected to a Cisco switch, each of which offers 1GB copper ports and 2GB uplink to distribution over Fibre. The entire network is a private subnet, with the Domain Name System (DNS) handled by the college, but Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) services handled on the subnet.

For the new configuration, we added a second Xserve, allowing me to put all our Web services on one network interface card and run authentication, DNS forwarding and DHCP on the second network interface card. I wanted to implement Open Directory and also configure that Open Directory Master as a Windows Primary Domain Controller (PDC). The older Xserve was upgraded with larger drives and set up to do only file and print services for both Windows and Macintosh labs. Anyone who has (or has heard) one of the first Xserves (a.k.a. "the jet-engine-sounding thing") will be pleased to know that Apple implemented the same multizone variable operation fans in the newer models as it did in the Power Mac G5. I hear the G5 Xserve is similar and am eagerly awaiting an evaluation model.

We purchased an APC SMA3000 rack-mounted UPS to protect our servers and shut them down in the event of a power failure. Important tech note: Be sure to get the network interface card configuration for the UPS, or you'll only be able to shut down one machine in the event of a power failure. With the network interface card, you can manage up to five Apple and Windows servers (for this particular model of UPS). If you have a true data center, APC provides larger models.

The biggest change in the configuration this time around was the addition of a third lab on the network, again switched 100Mbit/sec. to the desktop and 1GB uplink over Fibre Channel. This time, the desktops were Dell Inc. GX450s running Windows XP. I wanted to see if Apple's claim that Panther would operate as a PDC and serve Windows domain clients was indeed true. I'll give you the details in my next installment, but I can tell you now that everything Apple promised is indeed in there -- and it works!

Coming up next: I will detail the building of Panther Server as an Open Directory master and PDC

As always, I invite your feedback. Send your questions, comments and curses to y.kossovsky@ieee.org.

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Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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