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This is what I tell people to do, who ask me "how do I learn to be a Linux sysad

1) Set up a KVM hypervisor.
2) Inside of that KVM hypervisor, install a Spacewalk server. Use CentOS 6 as th
e distro for all work below. (For bonus points, set up errata importation on the
CentOS channels, so you can properly see security update advisory information.)
3) Create a VM to provide named and dhcpd service to your entire environment. Se
t up the dhcp daemon to use the Spacewalk server as the pxeboot machine (thus al
lowing you to use Cobbler to do unattended OS installs). Make sure that every fo
rward zone you create has a reverse zone associated with it. Use something like
"internal.virtnet" (but not ".local") as your internal DNS zone.
4) Use that Spacewalk server to automatically (without touching it) install a ne
w pair of OS instances, with which you will then create a Master/Master pair of
LDAP servers. Make sure they register with the Spacewalk server. Do not allow an
onymous bind, do not use unencrypted LDAP.
5) Reconfigure all 3 servers to use LDAP authentication.
6) Create two new VMs, again unattendedly, which will then be Postgresql VMs. Us
e pgpool-II to set up master/master replication between them. Export the databas
e from your Spacewalk server and import it into the new pgsql cluster. Reconfigu
re your Spacewalk instance to run off of that server.
7) Set up a Puppet Master. Plug it into the Spacewalk server for identifying the
inventory it will need to work with. (Cheat and use ansible for deployment purp
oses, again plugging into the Spacewalk server.)
8) Deploy another VM. Install iscsitgt and nfs-kernel-server on it. Export a LUN
and an NFS share.
9) Deploy another VM. Install bakula on it, using the postgresql cluster to stor
e its database. Register each machine on it, storing to flatfile. Store the baku
la VM's image on the iscsi LUN, and every other machine on the NFS share.
10) Deploy two more VMs. These will have httpd (Apache2) on them. Leave essentia
lly default for now.
11) Deploy two more VMs. These will have tomcat on them. Use JBoss Cache to repl
icate the session caches between them. Use the httpd servers as the frontends fo
r this. The application you will run is JBoss Wiki.
12) You guessed right, deploy another VM. This will do iptables-based NAT/roundrobin loadbalancing between the two httpd servers.
13) Deploy another VM. On this VM, install postfix. Set it up to use a gmail acc
ount to allow you to have it send emails, and receive messages only from your in
ternal network.
14) Deploy another VM. On this VM, set up a Nagios server. Have it use snmp to m
onitor the communication state of every relevant service involved above. This me
ans doing a "is the right port open" check, and a "I got the right kind of respo
nse" check and "We still have filesystem space free" check.
15) Deploy another VM. On this VM, set up a syslog daemon to listen to every oth
er server's input. Reconfigure each other server to send their logging output to
various files on the syslog server. (For extra credit, set up logstash or kiban
a or greylog to parse those logs.)
16) Document every last step you did in getting to this point in your brand new
17) Now go back and create Puppet Manifests to ensure that every last one of the
se machines is authenticating to the LDAP servers, registered to the Spacewalk s
erver, and backed up by the bakula server.
18) Now go back, reference your documents, and set up a Puppet Razor profile tha
t hooks into each of these things to allow you to recreate, from scratch, each i
ndividual server.
19) Destroy every secondary machine you've created and use the above profile to
recreate them, joining them to the clusters as needed.
20) Bonus exercise: create three more VMs. A CentOS 5, 6, and 7 machine. On each
of these machines, set them up to allow you to create custom RPMs and import th
em into the Spacewalk server instance. Ensure your Puppet configurations work fo

r all three and produce like-for-like behaviors.

Do these things and you will be fully exposed to every aspect of Linux Enterpris
e systems administration. Do them well and you will have the technical expertise
required to seek "Senior" roles. If you go whole-hog crash-course full-time it
with no other means of income, I would expect it would take between 3 and 6 mont
hs to go from "I think I'm good with computers" to achieving all of these -- ass
uming you're not afraid of IRC and google (and have neither friends nor family .