10 more Raspberry Pi projects primed for IT

Network monitoring, traffic analysis, VPN servers -- DIY-minded IT pros can hack together heavy-duty solutions as cheap and easy as Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi was created as an educational platform but has become one of the most popular embedded systems platforms on earth with a full copy of Linux and a rabid community of DIY-minded developers. That combination alone makes the Raspberry Pi a natural fit for hacking together enterprise IT applications and devices. Add in its low cost and the ready availability of open source solutions, and you can quickly see how previously expensive systems and devices are suddenly within reach of IT departments willing to experiment with Raspberry Pi, as my first foray into DIY IT Raspberry Pi projects showed.

Here we take another deep look at enterprise-worthy Pi projects, as developers have gained more experience on both the hardware and software sides of the Raspberry Pi.

Distributed network monitoring with Iperf

NetBeez has been busy building wired and wireless performance monitoring systems for quite some time. I had a chance to use these systems at InteropNet the past couple years.

With the ability to kick off “what if” scenario data streams, NetBeez gave the crew at InteropNet the means to perform sanity-check load testing before customers arrived at the show venue. NetBeez’s monitoring capability also gave the InteropNet team a customer’s-eye view of the network all the way to the edge. If you’re looking for a cheap, open source way to establish distributed network monitoring, NetBeez has created a collection of resources for you to roll your own Raspberry Pi-based performance monitors using Iperf, an open source Linux-based bandwidth testing tool. TCP, UDP, multicast, and more -- hack this Pi tool together and test away.

Project by Panagiotis Vouzis

Network traffic analysis and troubleshooting with tshark

Wireshark is a massively popular packet capture device, but a leaving laptop in your data closet isn’t always possible. Never fear: Raspberry Pi -- and Gerald Combs of Wireshark fame -- to the rescue.

Combs has created a much lighter-weight command-line version of Wireshark called tshark that can be added to a Raspberry Pi to create a much more affordable packet capture device that you can drop into data closets all over your campus. But keep in mind that tshark does not include a GUI, so you’ll need a fairly good idea what you’re looking for as you SSH into the remote Pi.

The LinuxUser tutorial by Mihalis Tsoukalos includes tips on troubleshooting network difficulties and adding network data to a MongoDB database on Debian 7 -- easily accomplished on your Raspberry Pi.

Project by Mihalis Tsoukalos

Network traffic control with Nagios

Network traffic control with Nagios Werner Ziegelwanger

Not every organization can afford a carrier-class network component monitoring system like Science Logic’s EM7. But thanks to Nagios, organizations of all stripes have a go-to open source system for monitoring and controlling network resources. A tutorial by Werner Ziegelwanger shows how to downsize Nagios onto a Raspberry Pi to give your team remote visibility, remote monitoring, and control in a compact, inexpensive platform that’s accessible with nearly any Web browser. One note: Nagios has a ton of dependencies and you should take care to write them down as they appear in case you have to restart the install.

Project by Werner Ziegelwanger

Network monitoring with MRTG

Network monitoring with MRTG Chris Sienko of Intense School Resources

Multi Router Traffic Grapher (MRTG) has been the darling of Internet router geeks for years, giving us a visual tool on the health of our WAN routers. What many of us have done over the years is to suck up a couple of rack spaces in our upstream ISP’s data center -- and have paid dearly for this superexpensive space. A tutorial from Muhammad Furqan of Intense School shows how a Raspberry Pi can be used as a supersmall MRTG platform that can be magnetically mounted on the inside of a rack, giving the router geek in you both an SNMP monitoring device and a remote Linux machine for serial console remote access, without paying for additional rack spaces.

Project by Chris Sienko of Intense School Resources

VPN server

With so many public Wi-Fi networks infected with botnets and other malware, the utility of a hotel Internet connection definitely comes into question. One solution is to use a Raspberry Pi as a VPN termination point that fully encrypts your laptop’s data stream before it enters the dark waters of a public network. I’d like to give a shout-out to ITUS Networks, which has taken this idea even further by integrating a full set of intrusion detection and prevention software along with the VPN system to further protect you in a turnkey package.

If you want to roll your own, here’s a tutorial on how to build the VPN portion on a Raspberry Pi.

Project by Daniel Ayoub at ITUS Networks

Google Cloud Print server

Google Cloud Print connects your printer to the Web in a way that allows you to print anything from anywhere, and to share your printer with others. It's a great technology, but adoption by printer manufacturers has been slow to say the least, and only on their latest offerings.

Matthew McEachen offers a tutorial that highlights a set of open source software that will let you set up Google Cloud Print without having to buy a new printer. In the tutorial, McEachen uses the open source CUPS print system. With this method, you could install print drivers on your Raspberry Pi for thousands of different printers and enable printing for your Chromebooks or other Google Cloud Print-enabled devices. This article covers information on setting up both Google Cloud Print and Wi-Fi printing capability.

Project by Mathew McEachen

Temperature monitor

Temperature monitor Ross Ishida of SOEST
Ross Ishida of SOEST

When I was building environmental sensor mesh networks for DARPA, one of my favorite sensor platforms was the Dallas Semiconductor 1-Wire system. With it, I could daisy-chain hundreds of individually addressable temperature sensors on a single set of wires for both power and data. There are dozens of different sensors available, but the maker community has embraced Dallas Semiconductor’s DS18B20 temperature sensor, which is mounted in a stainless steel waterproof tube that can be bought at any number of electronics outlets (like Adafruit). Christiaan Thijssen offers a temperature monitoring tutorial that highlights how combining a waterproof DS18B20 temperature probe with a Raspberry Pi enabled a catering company to monitor and log the temperature in a number of commercial refrigerators and freezers at its facility.

Project by Christiaan Thijssen

Digital signage

Digital signage Marco Buratto

If you've looked for flight arrival times at an airport or seen a TV screen with a menu out front of a restaurant, you’ve encountered “digital signage” hiding in plain sight. Digital signage is a multi-billion-dollar sales tool that boils down to a screen running a playlist of still images. Why pay out the nose when you can roll your own?

Binary Emotions offers a supersimple digital signage solution that boots up the system and starts a playlist of still images. Since you can’t update it over the network, you might as well save $10 by forgoing the $35 Raspberry Pi Model B and instead getting the Raspberry Pi Model A, which doesn’t have a hackable Ethernet interface, at $25 each. Simply change out the SD card for a new slideshow.

Project by Marco Buratto

Conference room media player

Conference room media player Raspberry Pi Foundation

You likely already have a collection of training videos, recordings of conferences, and well, amusing, share-worthy cat videos on your organizational server. What you need is a way to inexpensively play them in meeting areas. The XBMC media player system is a turnkey Raspberry Pi solution that can be set up in a few minutes and even supports inexpensive USB infrared remote controls to make it feel even more like a home digital video recorder.

Project by Raspberry Pi Foundation

IPython Notebook for making learning Python as easy as Pi

IPython Notebook for making learning Python as easy as Pi Fernando Perez

Raspberry Pi runs several different flavors of Linux, and the new Model 2 can even run Microsoft Windows 10 Embedded. But the Raspberry Pi was really designed for Python. Depending on whom you ask, Python is one of the easier programming languages to learn, and the IPython Notebook system makes it even easier.

IPython Notebook is an interactive computational environment, which means you can try out a few lines of Python code and see a result, without having to jump through a bunch of hoops. To that end, the scientific community has designed the Software Carpentry tutorials that step you through the basics of Python and how you can use it for displaying fairly complex data in lots of different graph formats.

Project by Fernando Perez

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