Novell Filr 1.0 tested

Cloudy with a Chance of File Servers

Configuring the Test Setup

Configuring and starting the Filr appliance is a matter of a few simple steps thanks to YaST. After specifying the basic network parameters, you need to decide between Hard Disk and Remote NFS as the storage back end (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Choosing storage back ends in the SUSE virtual appliance configuration.

For the hard disk version, you need to create matching virtual devices up front; similarly, you also need an NFS target in advance. The Filr administrator can also specify two NFS mountpoints. Filr then uses /vastorage as a central repository for the appliance and /vashared for sharing and clustering. If you're planning a clustered Filr setup, you need to select the Remote NFS option.

The next step can – if desired – assign the network folder for management by Filr and make it available in the web interface. This step is different from the previous task of integrating the NFS share on an external server as a storage back end. Details can be found in the Novell Filr 1.0 Web Application User Guide [6]. The Do not configure shares storage option tells Filr to provide users of the web interface only home directories below My files .

After the SUSE configuration, you can log in to the web interface via the address https://<Filr Machine:9443> as vaadmin using the password you chose at setup. This controls access to the three management tools Appliance System Configuration , Novell Filr Appliance Configuration , and Ganglia (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Filr is managed through the use of three convenient web interfaces.

Ganglia is an open source, scalable, distributed monitoring tool. Appliance System Configuration is used to modify retroactively the settings made during the SUSE Linux Enterprise setup phase, manage digital certificates, and control the firewall and active running services. The tool can also restart and shut down Filr (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Starting and stopping Filr is a task for Novell Appliance Configuration.

Novell Filr Appliance Configuration, which you can access on https://<Filr_machine>:9443/filrconfig , handles the initial Filr configuration. A wizard helps you configure a small or large setup, prompts you for the database password, and then starts the Filr service. If you opt for a large setup, you must have the additional virtual appliances (Lucene) and at hand.

You can also use the tool to set up a clustered mode, a WebDAV authentication mode, and a reverse proxy mode. You can also change the port numbers: 9443 for Appliance Configuration and 8443 for the web interface. The admin can then log in using the default account admin and a password of admin via the web interface on https://<Filr_machine:8443> .

Filr from the User's Point of View

Novell implemented Filr web interface in JavaScript and HTML5. The functional counterpart, the application server, is powered by the high-performance Jetty servlet engine. Operation is intuitive, thanks to the clear division into My Files , Shared with Me , Shared by Me , and Net Folders . On the far left are buttons for What's New and What's New , which contain collaboration functions.

After the initial setup, only admin with the password admin (not to be confused with the vaadmin user for managing the Filr VA configuration) can log in. For Filr, the admin is a user like any other, who can use Filr as a file-sharing platform. However, when the admin clicks the Filr admin at top right in the shortcut menu, the Administration Console is available. In the console, the admin can create additional users, define their rights, and define global settings (e.g., language settings).

Users and User Accounts

Filr distinguishes between internal and external users and guests. Internal users are those that the administrator created a separate account for and assigned rights to. However, Filr can also import user accounts from Active Directory or Novell eDirectory. Also, the external Filr admin can give employees access to folders and files in Filr and authorize them for collaboration. To allow this to happen, existing users can invite external users by email.

External users, if they already have a Google or Yahoo email address, can log in via OpenID or follow the link in the invitation email to the registration page. The Filr ID is then the email address. Filr automatically creates a Filr account with an email address as soon as a Filr user shares an object with an external user. However, before this can happen, you need to go to the Administration Console and allow external users or guests to access objects in System | User Access (Figure 4).

Figure 4: The Filr admin needs to grant guest or external users access to Filr via OpenID – regardless of which object-related privileges they are assigned later on.

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