Raspberry Pi: Your Linux-based Solution
If you’re a hardware hobbyist, the words Raspberry Pi are probably familiar to you. Created by the Raspberry Pi Foundation in the UK, the Raspberry Pi is a small personal computer that is about the size of a credit card and runs on just 2A of power. The latest model uses a MicroSD card for the hard disk (Class 10 is recommended) and sports 4 USB 2.0 ports, a 10/100 Ethernet port, 40 GPIO pins, HDMI, 1GB RAM, 1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core ARMv8 CPU, onboard Wi-Fi 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.1, and Bluetooth low energy (BLE). And all that for the affordable price of $35, with the Pi-Zero model being as low as $5!
While this little piece of hardware is popular among hobbyists, it actually does have valid enterprise uses that can be paired with a variety of open source software projects. The amount your business can save on electricity alone is worth giving this impressive piece of hardware a chance to show off what it is capable of.
If you’re looking for a piece of hardware to test the security of your infrastructure, Kali has created Raspberry Pi images of their popular pen testing software for the ARM architecture that the Pi uses. Normally run off a USB drive on a laptop as a live image, the Raspberry Pi can have a 7” touchscreen added to it making it a sort of hackable tablet provided you have some sort of USB battery bank to power the unit. Kali comes preloaded with tons of Linux packages that are used for information gathering, password sniffing, vulnerability scanning, and much more. In addition to Kali, there are other light weight pen test distros available like raspberry_pwn, PwnPi, and FruityWiFi for auditing wireless networks, and all are open source.
Many organizations rely on companies like Atlassian for an internal help desk ticketing system. What you may be surprised to learn is that the Raspberry Pi can run a program called osTicketPi, an open source help desk ticketing system. With this software, your organization can save hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars in licensing fees from 3rd-party companies. In addition to managing your internal tickets, NagiosPi is available to help monitor your systems and according to its developer, is easier to set up out of the box than regular Nagios.
Many lobbies of corporate offices have some type of signage available that may cycle through a few slides or play a short video. Rather than running a full-sized desktop to perform these low resource tasks, use a Raspberry Pi with Concerto to manage all your lobby signage needs and save on electricity and hardware costs.
Some smaller offices may have networked their printers together which requires a host computer to be running. Raspberry Pi can serve as your organizations print server. Another task that requires a computer running constantly is network traffic analysis. Tshark is a command line version of Wireshark that you can put on your Pi and leave in a closet anywhere in your organization. Another tool your system admin may already be familiar with is Multi Router Traffic Grapher (MRTG). MRTG is a software tool used to monitor traffic load on network links and it now has a port for Raspberry Pi. OpenVPN also works with the Pi, allowing your organization to run its own termination point, again saving on costs of using another 3rd-party service.
Whether it’s using the Raspberry Pi as a set-and-forget monitoring tool, or a simple server to facilitate tasks that don’t require a full-Intel chipset, the Raspberry Pi can provide you with a Linux-based solution for a cost that can’t be matched or beaten. Even a virtual machine requires an active host to be running, and with the costs of electricity to organizations everywhere, low power solid state devices are becoming an attractive option for organizations both large and small.
In Part 2 of my article, we’ll talk about how an organization would go about transitioning from your traditional enterprise blade rack mount server to a Raspberry Pi and we’ll also talk about Pi clustering and their use cases in supercomputing.