Can Linux, Windows, and Apple network easily?

Answering only the three major questions (marked with *** in front of them) will award you the points any other questions will earn you a world of gratitude with me forever! in the event that the question or questions can not be answered i.e. i am a idiot and don't know what i am talking about or the right people just don't check this juicy post. the person answering the most questions will be awarded the 500 points.

Ok Here is the situation (Back Story):

I run the network at a small marketing firm, with about 10 Windows XP Pro clients, 8 Mac OSX (10.4.8) Clients.
Servers - One SBS 2003, one Windows 2003, and two Fedora boxes.

Roles -
        SBS 2003 - of course this is currently our domain controller, DNS Server, DHCP Server, and Exchange Server. (and for now the ExtremeZ IP Server afp emulator for windows - this will be part of the question later).
        Windows 2003 - will be the Veritas DTDTT Server, Anti virus Server, WSUS Server, Image Server for pc and mac clients (image storage and network boot restore if needed), and the central admin server to connect to the pc's via remote desktop and the mac's via a Linux VNC - tweeked by me of course, to work.
        Fedora 6 #1 - this machine was built for speed from the board to the cpu and down to the screaming sata II raid card and the six gigs of ram. it will be the file / archive server, and that is all.
        Fedora 6 #2 - SElinux enabled and configured to strict security measures. It will host the companies web site, ftp site, client site, and intranet / company portal (Outside, both the company portal and the intranet will serve the same information. I know what you are thinking then it is just a portal but right now it uses seperate security protocols i.e. timeout, authentication standards, bandwidth allocation etc. depending on which side you are on.) This is also running webDEV and iwebcal to host a group calendar that Outlook 2003 (through a plug in) and iCal subscrib to centrally. Beautiful how it works, intigrates perfectly. but on with the show.

Now the SBS will still run the domain, dns, active directory, and dhcp. along with Exchange Server. i am routing the OWA requests through to this server via the Firewall.
             FIRST QUESTION: is there a way to host the OWA portal on the linux box with Exchange on the SBS 2003 box (now i think i know that owa's back bone is but i have seen stranger things)

             Problem #1 - the designers are all on Power Mac Dual G5's with 10.4.8 installed. they are all equip ed with CS2(creative suit 2), Quark 6.5, Acrobat 7 pro, Extensis suitcase (newest version, it is a font thingy software, a high priced organizer), two of the 8 have Studio 8, one has Final Cut Pro the big boy. along with a host of minor small programs. the problem is that a lot of the files the designers are working on are between 2 - 6 gig Ultra High res illustrator, quark or inDesign files. the group is located on the third floor and i am deaf in the server room on the first floor. well more and more frequently i am having complaints of slow saves lock ups or crashes on open or close. i have upgraded the switches, cabling (to cat6 twisted and ind. shielded cable) patch panels (cat6) essentially cat6 from machine to machine and gigabyte on everything, i found that disk cache time was through the roof that is why i built the first fedora box (NOT YET IN PRODUCTION).

***Money Question #1 - if i install the fedora core on the screamer can i join that box to the windows domain so that i do not have to maintain two user / password databases. and if so do you (the genius answering this question) think in your opinion that the transfer speed is faster with a windows box running ExtremeZ-IP (remember a afp emulation software for windows) or with a Fedora box running AFP share directories via tcp (I have been told this can be done also as AFP Over Appletalk but have yet to discover this marvel of modern technology) the other thing to remember is that when using smb to the windows box the mac files saved crappy but from the research i did when i purchased Z-IP it is common with OSX. last part if you do not agree with any of these setups what do you think. remember the overall theme here for this server (file server) is speed and reliability while serving files.

this is a "or" question this next question if done right can win the show.

***Money Question #2 - with all that i have listed here the services and systems i need to run and run reliable. how would you set this network up? or rather how would you split the services up to optimize the speed and dependability of the system in it's entirety? few more facts for this question - the win 2003 and SBS 2003 box is newer (by one year) and are mid range servers (high end of mid-range), the screamer is on the very high end of the mid-range and a custom built (but i am not entirely stupid all parts are top of the line server parts, down to the $1200 10 port sata raid card and corsair ecc memory with tyan top of the line server mb and wd 15,000 rpm sata drives in a raid 10 configuration - 10 of them. I chose to not go with the scsi drives for the simple fact that through testing the raid controller and wd sata drives read and write came out on top of the scsi 15000rpm ultra 320 weird right?)

the winner will also get a full run through when the job is complete (i am a old school tech and i love to see the completed project, esp if i consulted on it. as i am sure the winner will also be glad to go on a behind the scenes tour.) and if it is permissible through this site to an outstanding candidate i will award a consulting fee of $150.00 (mailed to the winner; not a lot i know but did you sleep through the hardware explanation i did above it was all purchased in the last year and that takes a bite out of the ol budget), but all information must me posted here so some other nerd can find it later  no need to get behind the scenes emails.  

ending notes: thanks for playing and again the major theme here is being able to access large amounts of data from a single server from windows and mac clients without crashing a system on open or save. then to split up the rest of the network services to the rest of the systems in a way to maximize performance and reliability. one last thing - i don't care if this site frowns upon it or not if you can show me a proven way to do all of this with little difficulty or change to the end user in a total Fedora environment the reward will be $300.00 (my boss authorized 150 i am fronting the other 150 out of my pocket). and yes ever since the Fedora core 4 came out and i installed it i have been gaga for it, i just love it so much, but as a admin i know that some jobs ultimately are done better or easier on a windows machine, or maybe not you tell me.
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Joseph HornseyConnect With a Mentor President and JanitorCommented:

Okay.  First a few comments:

- Wow.  Really long post.
- Dude.  You've got 18 clients and FOUR servers.  That is 1 server per 4.5 users.  The SBS server alone can handle 100 times that.
- 6GB of RAM on the Fedora server?!?!   Did I mention that you only have 18 clients?

:-)  Sorry.  I had to give you a hard time.  On the surface it seems like overkill until one reads about the file transfers.

Some general observations and answers to your questions:

1. IMHO, the 6GB of RAM is wasted on the Fedora server if it's only a file server. You're never going to use it (not with 18 users).  I understand you're sending absolutely huge files to the server, but RAM's not going to be the bottleneck; the disk will be.  The RAM is better used in the SBS and Win2K3 boxes.  Now, the SATA RAID (with lots of RAM on the controller) is a great idea, but that's still going to be the bottleneck.  Think of it this way:  even with ultra-super-duper hard drives, you're still looking at access times measured in milliseconds (thousandths of a second) whereas RAM access times are measured in nanoseconds (billionths of a second).  So, RAM is going to be around a million times faster than the hard drive (solid-state vs. moving parts).  So, I think that you're not going to improve file transfers that much by stacking in that much RAM because the whole reason why the disk caches are huge is because the system is waiting for the disk to become available.

2. Hosting OWA on Fedora - There are ASP-compatible plug-ins for Apache.  Also, here's a link to a site that discusses it:  I've tried to do this and my experience has been that you don't want to mess with it.  I've been working with Exchange since it was MS Mail (and am certified since 5.0) and I can tell you that this is a bad idea.  OWA is totally dependent on IIS and all of the little quirky things that IIS does (like Application pooling, ISAPI calls, etc.).  It's not just an ASP thing.

3. Joining Fedora to Domain, etc. - What you're looking for is a single sign-on solution for Linux/Active Directory/OSX.  Here's what I would recommend:
    - Install SAMBA on the Fedora Core server
    - Configure Kerberos on the SBS server to allow unencrypted connections
    - Configure the Fedora server (Kerberos, SAMBA and Winbind) with the domain settings and then join the domain.
    - Configure NSS and PAM on the Fedora server for AD
    - Configure Active Directory access on OS X with the Directory Access utility and join the domain.
    - Change login preferences in OS X to prompt for user name and password
    Here's a great link with more details:

4. AFP Speeds, Fedora vs. Windows - No clue, man.  You'll just have to test them.  My assumption is that Fedora will run faster and cleaner.

5. How I would set this network up - It sounds like you've got the services pretty well situated.  Even with my earlier comment about the RAM in the Fedora box being wasted, I'd still probably keep it there if it were me.  If nothing else, when a user complains about slow transfer times, you can always say (with exasperation), "Well, what do you want me to do?  I mean I've already got *six gigs* of RAM in the server!".  A couple of other things... shielded cabling and CAT6 infrastructure aren't going to give you drastic performance improvements over CAT5e UTP.  What will make the biggest difference in the infrastructure of your network is the hardware you install.  My experience is that if you use any brand of switch other than Cisco, your network performance will drop.  So, make sure that you use Cisco switches that will give you enough througput to the server (backplane throughput is what you're looking at).  The Windows boxes are going to hum along nicely, so I wouldn't worry too much about them.  The only thing I can tell you to do here is make sure that you've designed Active Directory well.  Since it's going to be your backbone Directory Service, you need to make sure you've done it right.  The starting point there is DNS because Active Directory is so dependent on it.  Just make sure you follow the best practices.  With a network your size, though, you can just run the SBS wizards and do okay.

6. The big money reward for a total Fedora environment - It ain't gonna happen if you're running Exchange.  I know that the big trend is to talk about how Microsoft sucks and Open Source rocks and the only thing in the world better than GNU licensing and Fedora Core is a full body rub-down from a super model (and even then, I'm pretty sure that most Linux fanatics would probably turn that down if that meant they could get their hands on Fedora Core 7 tomorrow).  The truth of the matter is that Microsoft makes some pretty good stuff.  Windows 2003 is just about bullet-proof (yeah, yeah... there are security flaws and patches... just like OS X and all the flavors of Linux) and Exchange is freakin' awesome.  The Outlook/Exchange combination just can't be beat if you're looking for messaging/collaboration/calendaring/tasks/etc.  Having said that, if you're going to run Exchange, you've got to run Active Directory, so you've got to run Windows.  The only way you're going to totally dump Windows out of your network is to find a different messaging solution first.  Of course, you're back to POP3 or IMAP for your mailboxes (yeah, yeah... you can run Open-Xchange on Linux... I'm sure there are plenty of consultants who can support you on it when you run into problems).

Anyway, let me know what you think.  I've found that the best thing to do is bounce ideas back and forth.  Also, I've probably made some horrible assumptions about your network.


When it comes to linux I am intermediate but here is what I have found that may help you out...>

Scroll down to the 5th reply and use that to add the linux boxes to AD.

After that add the mac clients with AdmitMac, This program truly adds the mac clients to the domain like it should be. I use it all the time to reduce slowness of mac clients/printing errors/sharing problems/etc

brandonsharpeAuthor Commented:
I have lots to reply to but i am trying to keep things running here until the weekend so that I can make some of the changes.

i will be taking the time to review and reply to the comments on Friday or sat.

yea i am sorry it is quite long, but you must have all the facts, and as for the ram and bottlenecks -  the ram was purchased for the SBS and windows servers as back up hardware (long story) it is just what is unallocated not really what i am buying to put in there. but i have addressed the disk problem.

with a  3ware 9550SX-4LP 64-bit/133MHz PCI-X SATA II Raid Controller Card RAID 0,/1/10/5/50, Single Disk and JBOD (in my opinion one of the fastest raid cards period, well untill next year when HP has announced it will release their new SAS raid to support the 1TB 2.5" SAS drives OMG 1TB on a drive?! well we thought the same thing with a gig drive.)

oh and by the way my systems management server clocked 430GB internal bandwidth usage today for only the past three days  and that is an daily average for the three days 143GB a day AVERAGE. if you look at the bar chart it has some days pegging 230GB. i forgot to mention we also have a small group of six that take high res photos crop, resized and save them back to the server all day so that is part of it but the upstairs is killing me. and until i get the rest implimented most of all services are running off that beefed up ML350 G4P, it makes me worry.

well we will all chat this weekend. by the way the contest will be ending in 14 days (unless someone gets it first, i still have not read the entire posting here yet so it may already be here)

just a thought the Linux challenge is not really aimed at Fedora, it is just the first real hard core testing of an environment and implementation of Linux i have had. and really with all the software i have in Microsoft between SMS(systems management server) DPC(data protection center) and the OS's i am not sure i can replicate that in Linux but i do like Linux and a well crafted plan could win and i would consider the implementation not for the fact that Microsoft simply sucks but that the amount of resources out there to tweak Linux even to the level of the core is outstanding while counter productive it would be a wet dream to be able to control it ALL!

going home to my wife keep up the posts. someone will win.
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