Data Centers

Meet the fastest, enterprise-level turnkey deploy in the West: The Cobalt RaQ 4r

Those looking for a multiuse turnkey server should look no further than the Sun Cobalt RaQ 4r. In this Daily Feature, Jack Wallen, Jr. shows you how quickly it can be set up and why it's perfect for application and Web service deployment.


I recently set up the Cobalt RaQ 4r sent to me by Sun Cobalt. The RaQ 4r is the high-end member of the RaQ family; it comes standard with dual hard disks, dual Ethernet, single SCSI, a single PCI, and the claim that you can have services up and running within 15 minutes out of the box. I decided I’d use this Daily Feature to test this claim. So without further rumination—on your mark, get set, go!

Minute 0:00-1:24
The first minute consisted of me in a frenzy of package opening (I'm still in that Christmas frame of mind), scrambling to get the server out of the plastic and powered up as quickly as possible.

Minute 1:25-2:00
The RaQ 4r was plugged into the power strip, and the Ethernet CAT 5 was connected.

Minute 2:01-4:31
The RaQ 4r was powered on and running through the disk check and initial startup routine.

Minute 4:32-5:10
Basic network configuration was done. Here, I used the LCD arrow buttons to configure the server’s IP address (192.168.1.50), submask (255.255.255.0—this was correctly generated by the RaQ 4r), and gateway (192.168.1.1).

Minute 5:11-6:31
I switched to another machine on my test network to log in to the RaQ 4r (via the Opera Web browser) and do the remaining network configuration. This last step of configuration consists of Hostname (mrhanky), Domain (tpgtest.techrepublic.com), DNS (206.165.6.11), administrator password (*********), and time settings.

Minute 6:32-6:59
The registration process is handled through a simple e-mail; you only need to enter your name and fax number. (I entered the complete information set.)

Minute 7:00-9:23
I set up the virtual site for a new user. This was simply a matter of entering a new IP address (192.168.1.51), a Hostname (pgirl), the Domain (tpgtest.techrepublic.com), Web server alias (pgirlweb), Mail server alias (pgirlmail), and setting a few defaults: max user home space allowed, allow anonymous ftp, allow Front Page extensions, max number of users, etc.

Minute 9:24-10:03
I set up automated backup for user pgirl. This backup will ftp all user files and configurations to a user-defined ftp server (in my case, nikita@192.168.1.52).

Cobalt backups
If you would like to read up on configuring the Cobalt server for backups, refer to a previous article of mine, "Recover and rescue the Cobalt RaQ 3," which describes backing up an RaQ 3. Although the servers have been significantly upgraded, the automated backup setup is the same.

Finished
And that was it. In just over 10 minutes, I had my RaQ 4r up and running with a virtual site set up for a single user. The RaQ 4r lived up to its claims with flying colors.

A marriage made in heaven?
Just who is the RaQ 4r made for? I could very easily toss this question off and say, “The RaQ 4r is perfectly suited for small to midsize ISPs who need a quick and easy solution to setting up user accounts and services.” But it goes beyond that. The RaQ 4r is not just a “quick and easy solution.” Because it takes advantage of RAID 1, it’s also a very reliable solution that’s perfect for deploying applications and layered services via the Web. With its amazingly simple set up and administration of virtual sites, it’s perfectly suited as a multisite Web hosting service (via virtual site administration).

Other benefits of using the RaQ 4r include:
  • RAID 1 disk mirroring capability
  • Browser-based set up and administration
  • Real-time monitoring
  • Traffic management (including bandwidth limiting)
  • Cluster capable
  • Preinstalled ASP scripting support
  • Preinstalled PHP scripting support
  • Disaster recovery support

I would go so far to say that pretty much anyone needing to offer users/employees e-mail, Web, ftp, and file sharing would benefit from purchasing a RaQ 4r. I've set up many servers before but never have I set up an all-encompassing server so quickly and so easily.

Site management tips
One of the frustrating things I came across was when attempting to set up a mail list. According to the instructions, the administrator is to go to the administration page (in my example, http://192.168.1.50/admin/) and click on Site Management and then List Management. Well, no matter what I did, I couldn't seem to get the List Management button to appear—until I wised up and clicked the edit icon (the small green wrench) of the virtual site I set up. Once I clicked that, more icons appeared, including the List Management icon.

Remember that there are three types of users for the RaQs: the RaQ administrator, the site administrator, and the standard user. The RaQ administrator has global permissions on the server; that user can do anything. The site administrator can only administer the particular virtual site he or she has been assigned (this is done when the virtual site is set up), and the standard user can only administer his or her particular account.

To access the server administration tool, you’ll point your browser to http://server_ip/admin/ (where server_ip is the IP address of the RaQ 4r server). For the server administration tool, you’ll have to know the server administrator’s password (the login name is admin). To access a particular virtual site's administration tool, you’ll point your browser to http://virtual_server_ip/siteadmin/ (where virtual_server_ip is the IP address assigned to the virtual site). For this administration tool, you’ll use that particular virtual site's administrator login/password.

Notice the difference
The subtle difference between the administrator URLs above, admin vs. siteadmin, will keep one type of administrator out of another type of administrator's administration tool.

Conclusion
I've always been very impressed with the Cobalt line of products, and the RaQ 4r only serves to reinforce that opinion. It's lightning-quick to set up, it’s reliable, and considering the cost, $1,749 for the RaQ 4r (called RaQ 4 large on the Cobalt site), it’s well worth the investment for anyone needing a lightning-fast, deployable, service-oriented server. Although you can get the IBM x300 rack-mount server for $1,318, you won’t be getting nearly the reliability and flexibility you’ll benefit from with the RaQ 4r.

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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