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Hardware Thread, New server setup in Technical; Hi all. We are looking at replacing all of our servers (which are all about 3+ years old) and I ...
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    New server setup

    Hi all. We are looking at replacing all of our servers (which are all about 3+ years old) and I was wondering how you would do it? Virtualise everything, SANs, blade or rack servers? What you you put on each server (AD, DNS, DHCP, WSUS, Sims etc).

    We have 6 servers currently, about 600 kids and 100ish staff. There is no budget for this as I've been asked to find out what it would all cost. So how would you do it?

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    IanT's Avatar
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    Alot of companies\schools go down the Virtualize route, personally it hasn't won me over yet, I still prefer the hardware server its self, and I know people will rant it saves money etc etc.

    We brought a new storage sever in the summer, nice bit of kit (HP ProLiant DL380 G5 with MSA60) with 12 1Tb SAS disk.

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    speckytecky (28th March 2010)

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    vikpaw's Avatar
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    I'm in the virtualise boat. it's not just about saving money (hardware cost / support / power) you get benefits of snapshots, backups, high availability, opportunity to test upgrades out on a clone etc.

    I'd maybe go for 3 high spec boxes, keep one as physical as your main DC, and then virtualise on the other two. If you go easy on the spec' you could try out virtualisation and if it's okay increase spec by adding RAM, storage etc. or back out and buy more physicals, sharing RAM from the others. Storage i imagine is most shared across anyway or it makes sense to be.

    Big thing to consider is which virtualisation technology, VMWAre is awesome, but not cheap, unless you run the free one and lost some advanced features. Hyper-V is free, but Microsofty and painful. Unfortunately that is the route we are having to take this summer.

    Either way, you can test out virtualisation to get a feel for it on your existing boxes, or even a desktop / laptop.

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    speckytecky (28th March 2010)

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    tmcd35's Avatar
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    Personally I think you first objective is to work out a budget for the project. I don't think you can look at virtualisation as a solution without first having an idea of what you can look at a virtualisation option without first having an idea of what you can afford to spend as there are to meny options and variables and too meny different routes you can go down.

    I think, once you have an idea of budget, that virtualisation - based on what you have said - should be explored. Whether it's the right solution for your school is another matter.

    If I was in your position the first thing I would do is price up replacing the 6 existing servers with 6 new servers 1-for-1 and take that to the Bursar and see what they say.

    If they say wow that's cheap then ask how much more they may be willing to commit to a possibly better solution. If they scratch their head and say too much we were thinking more of £X, well now you have a figure to work with.

    Pricing up 6 servers doesn't mean that's what you are going to buy. But it does give you a basic cost for the project to compare other solutions to.
    Last edited by tmcd35; 28th March 2010 at 01:20 PM. Reason: Total rewording of advice.

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    speckytecky (28th March 2010)

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    Duke's Avatar
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    I've only skimmed the other posts so sorry if I repeat anything.

    I'd virtualise too, you can fit all of those servers on two, possibly three virtual hosts, get some shared storage, and instantly your future expansion and upgrades become much simpler. You also get all the benefits of failover, easier backups, pus find a second site and you get disaster recovery too.

    Get something like PlateSpin to monitor your current servers and work out their load so you know what hosts you need. Calculate your current storage requirements and rate of growth then figure out what storage solution will work best for you.

    If this is going to be a big upgrade for you, then plan ahead as much as possible (i.e. don't buy a non-expandable 2TB storage array if you're already pushing 1.5TB) so that if budgets are tight in the future you're not as stuck as you otherwise might be.

    My personal recommendations would be VMware, Dell R710's and Sun S7000 Open Storage. That is however very dependant on your requirements and budget.


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    glennda's Avatar
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    I would say defiantly the virtualisation route - i am currently running KVM which runs in the linux kernel - but you have to know your way around a linux server to trouble shoot when goes wrong. Another free option is Vmware's ESXI you don't get the bells and whistles that you get with the paid for version of it but in my opinion in a school environment the High availability stuff is not financially viable.

    I would recommend something along the lines of one smallish box for the physical DC - if its only a dc running DHCP-DNS etc and not much else then maybe a HP DL1320 then a couple of HP DL380's using a shared storage over fibre channel or ISCSI. I currently have a HP MSA 2000 on fibre channel shared between our hosts so that we can run the virtual machines from any of the hosts we have. but i have also seen the Dell equallogic in action but its a bit on the pricey side, lots of people are saying the Sun SANS are very good aswell.


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    john's Avatar
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    We are on the Virtualisation route as well, replacing all our existing kit with a VM based setup. I have just got 3x HP DL360 G6's, they have Dual Quad Cores and 24GB Ram in each host, these are connected to our Sun S7110 SAN for the central storage part of the system. We are running Citrix XenServer on the HPs, and I will be keeping a Physical DC which is a HP DL180 G5 currently just used as an apps storage box but will be re-used into a Physical DC once we have got it all up and running.

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