ELX(Everyone’s Linux), is a Linux focused company based in India. ELX’s first product, ELX Power Desktop, received very good reviews during its early stages but for the past several months, the product has been very quiet.
I spoke to ELX’s President, Abhi Datt and asked him what was going on with ELX. Abhi explained that ELX had been working with major partners on a variety of projects and that their development on Power Desktop and Biz Desktop had unfortunately taken a back seat.
Abhi asked me to take a look at their Power Server 1.0. At first, I was skeptical. I assumed with ELX’s strong background with Red Hat, that Power Server was probably just another rehash of Red Hat 9.0 or Fedora. When Abhi told me that Power Server was based on Trustix, I was quite intrigued.
Trustix is a hardened (secure) version of Linux designed for server based applications. Trustix, like ELX, is based on Red Hat. Trustix uses Anaconda from Red Hat 7.1. Trustix has received very positive reviews for security features, but Trustix has very limited functionality and is not easy to setup and administer.
Abhi explained that the main reason that ELX built Power Server was to provide an easy to install platform to support both Oracle Forms and Oracle Database. Abhi claims that Power Server is essentially a plug and play platform for Oracle. There is an Oracle
configuration rpm in the Utils directory of the CD. This single rpm makes ELX Power Server 100% ready for Oracle database and Formserver install.
ELX Power Server is easier to install than the other available server based Linux. The entire package installs from a single OS. Only needed files that are trusted get loaded. The install is simple. There are a variety of server options for specific applications provided in the installation menu. It is possible to create a simple, dedicated server in as little as 100 MBs. The full install is under 1GB.
ELX Power Server implements a client server environment for using and administering applications. It is possible to use X Windows on the client. For my testing, I used a NorhTec Microserver HP set up as 10.0.0.10.
Suppose I wanted to administer the server using XWindows. I can use the command xhost+ as follows xhost+ 10.0.0.10. Then I would use the command export DISPLAY=10.0.0.10:0,0. Now I can run X Windows based tools or install applications that need X Windows to install.
Besides being easy to install, Power Server is also easy to administer. ELX has integrated Webmin. Webmin is a program that simplifies Linux and Unix management. It allows you to administer the system using a browser.
To access Webmin, simply use SSL and point your browser to port 10000 of the ELX Power Server. In my case, I would type https://10.0.0.10:1000. I will be presented with a login screen. You can log into the system using root and your user name.
The first time you log into the system, you will probably want to set up Webmin to suit your personal tastes.
Webmin is integrated into most applications available with ELX Power Server. One exception I found was Hylafax. Hylafax is a fax server that you can set up. I tested Hylafax and found that installing it using just the command line was very straightforward. By invoking the faxsetup application in Hylafax, it is possible to set up a networked based fax server by following the simple install instructions. A third party Webmin module for Hylafax can be found here http://doxboy.8u8.com/index.html.
An easy to setup module for voice mail server for Webmin is included. You need to create your greeting using any program that generates a .wav file. The program will convert this into a file that is compatible with your modem. Using a server with a hardisk allows the user to store many more messages than a conventional answering machine. It is also possible to e-mail incoming .wav files so that individuals can setup voice mail that will automatically send these messages to the user – no matter where they are.
Some modern phones or wireless PDAs will allow people to keep up with their voice mail no matter where they are located. For both Hylafax and the voice mail program, it is best to use an external modem that supports both fax and voice. Many new PCI card based modems are softmodems. Softmodems require special drivers and are often difficult to support on Linux. For voice and fax, you can dig up one of your old 33.6 modems and plug it into an available serial port.
One of the servers available with Power Server is Jabber IM server. Jabber is an open standard instant messaging protocol that allows organizations to set up private or public messaging communities. Using a private Jabber IM server, it is possible to set up secure messaging for an organization. Jabber is not compatible with AOL, Yahoo or MSNm but it is possible to create gateways to these protocols. It is also possible to build gateways to SMS or e-mail with Jabber.
Jabber could be a very powerful tool for fleet management or service organizations setting up internal private messaging.
Webmin also manages Samba, MySQL, Apache, and Postfix based mail. It is also possible to use Samba’s standard tool, SWAT, to manage Samba. A Java based file manager is also integrated into Webmin. This makes it easy to perform copy, delete, paste, move and other file management functions without having to go to the command line.
Webmin also integrates its own webmail program so that you can remotely access your mail from the server. ELX Power Server includes PPTP based VPN Webmin as well as SSL tunnels, both managed by Webmin.
It would be possible to add Horde to provide a web based mail tool with integrated calendar, project management and other organizational tools.
ELX Power Server uses Trustix’ SwUp to upgrade all software components. SwUp is written in Python and works in conjunction with RdfGen to keep ELX Power Server up-to-date. SwUp can even update the kernel. SwUp can be used to upgrade any RPM based Linux but it requires a dedicated repository using RdfGen.
In the past, I had to choose between two approaches. One was to use a dedicated server distribution such as e-smith or IPCOP or to create my own server using Slackware, Fedora or a version of BSD. The problem using a generic distribution is that you wind up installing a lot more than you need and the resulting solution is not all that tightly integrated or easy to use.
ELX Power Server gives me the ability to create a dedicated secure server that is easy to install, easy to administer and easy to upgrade. ELX Power Server is extensible so I can create custom servers. Because ELX Power Server is not bogged down with X Windows or sound, ELX Power Server provides better performance than distributions that need to support multi-media functions.
I asked Abhi about the future for Power Server. Abhi said that they plan to add Webmin support for Snort and HylaFax. They also will be adding a variety of wizards. He also said they are working on a toolkit that will allow users to create their own wizards without needing to use X Windows.
Abhi said that he is focused on high availability clustering more than high performance clustering. He said that Power Server is designed to be the first complete deployment ready enterprise solution that can be installed and running in less than an hour. Abhi went on to explain that while secure enterprise solutions are available commercially and in Open Source, the learning curve has been an obstical and the result is that critical data is not adequately protected.
ELX is offering ELX Power Server as Open Source and is actively looking to build a community around the product. ELX is providing professional services from their India and Malaysia offices for organizations that would like customized or supported versions of ELX Power Server. Abhi told me that ELX will be offering dedicated server packages designed for hospitals and for Internet Data Centers and Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
I asked Abhi about the differences between Power Server and Trustix. He stated that both Trusix and ELX are essentially based on Red Hat. Trustix uses a hardened kernel and only software that is known to be trustworthy. Abhi said that Power Server has many additions and even changes to the Kernel to allow the applications ELX has added to behave securely.
ELX Power Server is probably the only deployment ready secure server available. ELX Power Server is highly recommended.
About the author
Michael C. Barnes, is president of NorhTec, a company dedicated to building small, energy efficient, fanless servers for standalone embedded applications. Mr. Barnes has over 25 years of experience in the computer industry. Mr. Barnes has currently resides with his family in Bangkok, Thailand.
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