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NetMax Professional: Bringing Linux to the Less Technically Inclined

Out-of-the-Box Linux Administration

  • August 28, 2003
  • By Aaron Weiss

The Linux operating system is the poster child for the open-source software movement, as it was developed in a global, self-organizing collaboration made up mostly of volunteers. The Linux software itself has evolved into a platform that is stable, secure, highly capable of serving all networking functions, and perhaps most notably, available free-of-charge.

But although Linux is obtainable without cost, the technical know-how needed to leverage the power of the platform can be high, requiring significant training or the added support costs of experts. Consequently, a number of vendors have taken to packaging Linux in their own style, with their own support tools, oriented toward users and organizations with different strengths or interests.

Cybernet Systems has come up with NetMax Professional Suite in an effort to release an out-of-the-box turnkey Linux solution requiring very little technical knowledge to configure and maintain, as compared to traditional Linux distributions. It labels NetMax an "Internet Appliance Server," meaning it can handle all the usual networking tasks an organization may need -from Web serving to e-mail to firewall protection--with the "plug-and-play" ease of an off-the-shelf appliance.

NetMax is intended for a dedicated machine. Almost any Pentium-compatible PC will do, as the system requirements for running the efficient Linux box are modest by today's hardware standards. The product arrives on a CD-ROM that is booted with the machine. Then, either from a console connected to the Linux machine or via any remote computer with a Web browser (and on the same local network as the NetMax machine), you can proceed through the step-by-step installation routine.

The NetMax installer will first erase the hard drive in the dedicated machine, and then proceed to install the system software, which is basically a Red Hat Linux distribution.

The install process is very streamlined and takes less than 15 minutes. There are few technical decisions to be made, and the few that there are (setting up the networking addresses, configuring a root user account) are explained clearly. By far, this was the easiest Linux install we've ever experienced.

Once set up, NetMax is controlled via a Web interface that offers control over all of the server's functions: from managing user accounts, e-mail services, Web serving, network and firewall behavior, and network file shares. In essence, NetMax is a Web-based user interface for managing a Red Hat Linux installation.

The interface is clean, complete with context-sensitive help, and a minimum of obtuse options or decisions. It would be incorrect to suggest that one need not know anything technical to manage a NetMax server, but one can certainly be productive with much less technical expertise than is required for the average Linux-based server.

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