OpenMarmot Switch Hardware v1

OpenMarmot Annoucement Link

For my first build I am sticking with hardware that I already had in stock in order to keep costs to a minimal.


Here is the parts list:

  • Supermicro CSE-510T-200B Chassis (this is the standard model i use whenever possible because of the dual hotswap bays)
  • Supermicro D525 1.8Ghz Atom motherboard with dual Intel NICs
  • 4 GB of ram (2x 2GB dimms)
  • Quadport Intel NIC
  • Supermicro PCI-E riser card
  • 30 GB Crucial SSD

The Supermicro D525 systems have plenty of horsepower for small projects, and having dual NICs always comes in handy. I see them on ebay (with server chassis) for under $200 sometimes. I’ve used them as Windows domain controllers, PFSense routers, NAS/SAN, consoler servers, etc.. Every lab should have one or two.


Announcing OpenMarmot

Along with other big companies like Google and Facebook, Marmotsoft is announcing an in-house designed Linux-based network switch. Unlike other large companies Marmotsoft has also released a very nice logo to go with it:



So I’ve decided that I need a break from studying. It’s time to work on a fun project that will combine Linux and networking. I will also get to build some hardware (yay!!). I will be mostly working off other people’s tutorials for the software part, at least until I get a better grasp of the Linux network stack.

Some more thoughts on certifications

I wrote a couple posts about how bad my local testing center is, but I ended up deleting them. It’s bad. Thats enough on that topic.


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about certifications. From following blogs and podcasts, I think the general mindset is that certifications don’t have a whole lot of value anymore.

When I think about it, there is really two reasons why I get certifications:

  1. As a way of learning things
  2. Something to put on my resume so that it fits HR’s definition of “qualified”

The problem is that certifications aren’t really that great at meeting either of those things. These days it seems like it is more common to find environments that are a combination of a dozen or more vendors. For example at my job I support Cisco, Avaya, Juniper, Checkpoint, Fortinet, etc. In the future we will probably buy whatever is cheapest, so getting more Cisco certifications won’t help a whole lot.

To address the second point, I’m not sure that having certifications is even beneficial anymore. I remember when I got my Security+ and shared it with my coworkers some of them were less than happy for me. I think sharing your achievements can sometimes make people bitter because they feel a need to “catch up”, or they feel like your accomplishments make them look worse. Management has been pretty unenthusiastic about any type of training, and has taken the stance that employees should not spend any work time training because they should have already known everything they needed to do their job when they were hired.

These days I have been keeping my certification achievements to myself because of the negative culture at my job. The question is are they even worth doing anymore? I’m not so sure.



I passed the exam for the JNCIA a couple days ago, and so I am now a “Juniper Networks Certified Associate”.


The JNCIA isn’t just Juniper’s CCNA. It has a lot of topics that Cisco puts at the CCNP level, and it doesn’t spend very much time going over networking basics. Everything in it is pretty Juniper specific, it is basically a test of how well you can perform networking tasks using the JUNOS operating system.

I enjoy working on Juniper gear, and I may end following this cert up with one from the specialist track.

Marmotsoft Defined Deskworking


I think it is always really interesting looking at people’s personal work-spaces.

My current setup is designed so that I can work standing up or sitting down, and quickly move inbetween the two by dragging windows between my 23 inch monitors (the monitors are connected to the same workstation).

The biggest change from the last time that I posted this is I upgraded my 19inch (sitting) monitor to a 23″. I like 23″ monitors because it is enough room to have two windows open side by side while still having enough space to work on both of them easily.

The bottom shelf on the standing desk is great place to store the books that I am using. Currently it is holding my stack of O’Reilly Juniper JUNOS books and a couple other odds and ends.



Cumulus Networks

I read some articles about Cumulus Networks today. They make a Debian Linux based OS for bare metal switches.

I think it is really cool, but I don’t really understand what the target audience is. The big catch with Cumulus is that you have to maintain a software license ($500 a year for a 1Gb switch).

There is absolutely no way the company I work for would drop the extra cash for a software license (remember you still need to buy some sort of hardware RMA support for your switch).

I’d love to play around with it in the lab, but the cheapest hardware you can get currently is around $2500 + $500 for the software license. Nope- I’ll stay with my affordable and powerful Juniper EX2200 for now.

So yeah.. Definitely a cool concept, and definitely not aimed at cash strapped hospitals. The last thing anyone wants is more software licensing costs.


Thinking about this some more, I’m guessing the cost savings come in more in the 40/100 Gb fabric switch range than in your 1Gb access layer switches. I think there are also some benefits for centralized control. Plus Linux is cool. I just wish it was more affordable for the hobbyist. :)


Fedora 20 sound bug

Occasionally when I apply Fedora updates and reboot the sounds stops working. This also seems to occur sometimes when I restart while headphones are plugged in.

The fix is to open alsamixer (type alsamixer in the console), select the right audio channel and type “m” to unmute.

I found the solution for this on a Fedora forum, so it seems to be a known issue–but it has persisted for months. I can’t really blame anyone but myself of course. I’ve known about this issue for months, but I haven’t done anything to help track down and fix the bug.

Lately I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the different stuff that I want to learn and keep up with, but I think that Linux is definitely something that I need to work on. A good start would be to try and help out with package maintenance and bug tracking.

Building a simple storage server with CentOS 7

I own a nice 2 bay Synology NAS, but I only use it for backups. I prefer to keep my files on virtual machines running on my beefy proxmox servers with their big xeons, ECC ram, and solid state drives. I was running a Debian 6 based SMB server for about a year, but with CentOS 7 out I decided it was time for an upgrade. Below are my quick notes on how to stand up a SMB server with CentOS 7. I used a vm with 2 vCPUs and 1 GB of ram, but 1 vCPU would be fine. More ram wouldn’t hurt, but I haven’t found that it makes much of a difference past 1 GB or so.

//1. begin with a centos 7 minimal install.
//ssh is already installed and setup by default

//2. install updates
yum updates

//3. install samba
yum install samba samba-client

//4. configure samba to start automatically on boot
systemctl enable smb.service
systemctl enable nmb.service

//5. add firewalld rules
firewall-cmd –permanent –zone=public –add-service=samba
firewall-cmd –reload

//6. create user and share
groupadd smbgrp
useradd marmotsoft -G smbgrp
smbpasswd -a marmotsoft

mkdir -p /home/samba/data

chmod -R 0777 /home/samba/data
chcon -t samba_share_t /home/samba/data

chown -R marmotsoft:smbgrp /home/samba/data

//7. samba config
//replace /etc/samba/smb.conf with this:

workgroup = WORKGROUP
server string = Samba Server %v
netbios name = centos
security = user
map to guest = bad user
dns proxy = no
#———————-File Shares————————————-
path = /home/samba/data
valid users = @smbgrp
guest ok = no
writable = yes
browsable = yes

//8. reboot


study/cert goals for the rest of the year

Wow! We are already in August. 2014 has really been moving fast for me.

An interesting question to ask yourself is:”How do you define success?”. Lately for me success has been a metric of how much new stuff I’ve learned, and to a lesser extent my ability to find and keep a series of increasingly difficult jobs.

2014 has already been a pretty successful year with a strong start at my new job on the network team at work, and with the achievement in April of the CCNA. After the CCNA I slowed down for awhile, but I have been working a lot lately on learning Juniper gear, and getting into Java programming.

Here are my study goals for the rest of the year:

  • August: Juniper JNCIA certification. This is scheduled for the end of the month. Hopefully I will be ready :)
  • September-October: Avaya Networks training. Using up some training credits that work had from buying Avaya gear. web based. will probably not pursue certification.
  • November-December: Restart studying for Comptia Linux+ Certification (for real this time!)

The Avaya training is kind of a fluke because the company I work for is pretty anti-training. They provide access to a video website with a bunch of awful out of date videos and consider that enough. However in this case we have a bunch of credits built up with Avaya from buying gear, so I get to do some web based training. I’m hoping it comes with some cool books. I probably won’t pursue the Avaya certifications because it would be a lengthy distraction from my other goals.

I am really excited to get back to studying for the CompTIA Linux+ certification. I almost wish that I didn’t have the other studying in the way, but I am enjoying working on the Juniper stuff. The main reason I’m pursuing a Linux cert is that I really need something “Linux” on my resume. My environment is 100% Linux at home and I run a pretty complex server environment, but unfortunately I can’t put that on my resume, and hiring managers that I have talked to have had little interest in hearing about it. Unfortunately almost all of our Linux gear at work is owned and operated by vendors, so I don’t have very much “work experience” for my resume. The other benefit of course is that I will learn a ton from taking the cert. From reading forums I get the idea that it used to be pretty easy, but the more recent version is very difficult (also it is 2 tests now). Judging from what I read in the book so far it isn’t going to be easy.

I might skip the Linux+ and study for the Red Hat RHCSA instead. Both exams are expensive ($356 and $400 respectively). I have noticed that government jobs will mention CompTIA certs in the “desired qualifications” section a lot, so the Linux+ might be useful in that regard. However I think the Red Hat cert will have a lot more practical knowledge.


JNCIA and other updates

I scheduled the exam for the JNCIA-JUNOS certification at the end of the month. The JNCIA is the starting level certification that Juniper offers, but it covers a really wide range of topics. I don’t expect it to be easy, but fortunately a lot of material will carry over from studying for the CCNA.

I’ve been spending a lot of time working on Juniper equipment in my home lab, so I feel reasonably prepared, but I will still be studying pretty hard for the next couple weeks. Speaking of which– I finished my VPN lab last weekend. The config might make it into a future post.

So my company is selling the local company that I support. It is hard to say what this means for me, other than one way or another I will be working for a new company by the end of the year. I feel like the infrastructure team is very much an after thought in this transaction. We tend to be unpopular with management because no one wants to spend money on maintaining infrastructure. I think we will end up being outsourced to a big company like Dell or CSC.


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