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Hardware Thread, New storage server? or something else? in Technical; Since I started working here last year I seem to have managed to impress a few people because the schools ...
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    New storage server? or something else?

    Since I started working here last year I seem to have managed to impress a few people because the schools intrest in IT spending has gone from Zero to include a refresh of 2 general purpose rooms and a refresh with bels on for the media department from standalones for sound and video work and a small network for document work to a network of Core 2 machines capable of both. The media department is justifiably pleased now that they don't have to restrict coursework choice and timeshare systems.

    I've connected 3 of the schools disperate networks into 1 dramatically improving the usability of the network because user logons and home folders are now unified. However I'm a victim of my own success. There are another 2 networks in the school and management are now eager to have them join the main network. I have the problem now that when I bought the new servers I was buying for a network of 90ish machines. So I choose 2 domain controlers which would each host half the user home folders and then mirror those home folders across the 2 DCs for redundancy and load balancing. Its worked great so far but adding these 2 networks will bring me over 150 machines and some logging of perfmon indicates that it will be too much for the DCs which are currently running, WSUS, Symantec antivirus servers, Home folder storage, a number of network apps and Printers. Some of these Roles are going to have to move. I plan on moving the symantec and WSUS roles off to one of the servers made available by the convergence but I still think the current DCs would fold under the preasure of 150+ users with mapped redirected, Mydocuments, Desktops and app data, running apps from the servers etc. We will also hit a space issue soon the 1.6tb of the user directories already doesn't fit on the same backup as the system drive so I have to do a sysmtem state backup then change tape and start the user space backup before I leave work.

    So in short what I think we need in a truely up to the job dedicated home folder server. I want it to be big, at least a couple of TB, Fast, Dual maybe quad GB to the core switch, Hardware level raid 5 with hot spare(s), and a proper backup solution. Thats my thoughts so my question is. If you agree with this solution ahve you any suggestions as to what spec, model, general guidance on buying such a machine because I'll be honest I've never bought or commisioned a server of that level before. or if you think I'm going at this totally the wrong way. Whats the alternative, NAS maybe, some sort of SAN any advice on products in this respect?

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    Ric_'s Avatar
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    Re: New storage server? or something else?

    My vote is for the SAN... I love them!

    The advantage of the SAN is that you can spread the load of serving the files across multiple servers and you can purchase a solution that allows easy expansion - e.g. buy 2TB now and have room to add a TB a year for the next three years

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    Re: New storage server? or something else?

    I'm (hopefully) getting my SAN this year. We currently have 7 servers, not because we need 7 server worth of processing (lots of Xeons) but because we need the storage 7 servers can provide, and are rapidly running out of. As Ric said, we are getting an initial 2TB, of which 1TB will already be accounted for. This combined with 4 new 1u servers will provide all the processing power I need to run the storage and any virtual servers\machines required.

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    Re: New storage server? or something else?

    any chance of posting specs and prices for SAN's - Hopefully getting one as well.

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    Re: New storage server? or something else?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dos_Box
    I'm (hopefully) getting my SAN this year. We currently have 7 servers, not because we need 7 server worth of processing (lots of Xeons) but because we need the storage 7 servers can provide, and are rapidly running out of. As Ric said, we are getting an initial 2TB, of which 1TB will already be accounted for. This combined with 4 new 1u servers will provide all the processing power I need to run the storage and any virtual servers\machines required.
    And there I was thinking that the donations to EduGeek were for the BETT 2007 stand

    Anyway, how does one back up 2TB? Will some files be declared expendable?

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    Re: New storage server? or something else?

    One back's it up using Ultrium 3 drives wiv an autoloader, 800GB per tape, so you need 3 tapes for 2TB and the speed they go is very quick, should be able to do it easily in one night

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    Re: New storage server? or something else?

    Quote Originally Posted by john
    One back's it up using Ultrium 3 drives wiv an autoloader, 800GB per tape, so you need 3 tapes for 2TB and the speed they go is very quick, should be able to do it easily in one night
    400GB is the native capacity of the tapes, you will at most see 1.5x compression. A full tape will take perhaps 5 hours to backup. So thats 5 tapes at 5 hours, if you can squeeze it on to 4 you can do a full backup overnight if you have two drives in the autoloader.

    Backing up 2TB is going to be time consuming and expensive what ever way you back it up!

    I do have some personal experience :P

    One LTO2 autoloader, an LTO3 autoloader, a SAN box and an XRAID.

    And I still limit the students to 100 or 200MB. Of course I increase it on demand, when its full of work. Doesn't seem that many people ever fill it up with work though, mostly "funny pics" from the internet.

    My 2TB is however divided into several LUNs hosting a few VM disk images in each. You don't want too many servers accesing the same LUN due to blocking from scsi reservations during write processes (a good rule is 10 VM disk images per LUN with ESX).

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    Re: New storage server? or something else?

    I beg to disagree with the 1.5x compression on them DMcCoy, I am using one in a business setup I did mid last year and they get ~700Gb on them before it goes that its full, and it does restore well from them. Now maybe thats veritas doing other stuff to the backup but thats whats showing on the tapes and I do belive its fairly accurate when checking partition sizes etc. Will admit that it does take all night in that setup to do it though as its doing 3 servers over the network and one is a big SQL database

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    Re: New storage server? or something else?

    Also beware that there's a noticeable difference in speed and size between hardware and software compression when dealing with tape drives.

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    Re: New storage server? or something else?

    Quote Originally Posted by john
    I beg to disagree with the 1.5x compression on them DMcCoy, I am using one in a business setup I did mid last year and they get ~700Gb on them before it goes that its full, and it does restore well from them. Now maybe thats veritas doing other stuff to the backup but thats whats showing on the tapes and I do belive its fairly accurate when checking partition sizes etc. Will admit that it does take all night in that setup to do it though as its doing 3 servers over the network and one is a big SQL database
    I guess there must be a lot of compressable data then I only see around 1.6x and its dropping. Perhaps I should have said that you should never count on getting more than 1.5x compression. In fact I don't think I'd be too comfortable using anything other than the native capacity for calculating what backup to use. If you had a large storage area full of mp3, jpg and mpg files then you would get virtually no compression at all!

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    Re: New storage server? or something else?

    Sometimes I hate the "system" of purchasing here.

    This has gone from a theoretical possiblilty to a buy it by friday after Monday nights Finance meeting. I'm honestly not prepared to make this decision. so I'm going to provide some more details and throw myself on the mercy of the edugeeks.

    First of all I have around £5k to spend, My network will be 120 growing to 140 clients within the year and up to a possible 360 in 2 years time. There are 1300 users approximatly from year to year and I'd like to give them 100MB which obviosuly they wont all use. Currently the 2 DCs are doing as above WSUS, Symantec AV, Network apps (encarta, Skillcheck, odessy, and several other use items) Ris, software by GPO, Mandatory profiles and print server. The users are split roughly 50/50 across the 2 DCs with they're profile and Home folder with redirected mydocs, appdata, favourites and desktop servered from the same DC. Backups are done by mirroring the home folders between servers daily and tape backups of system drive day 1, half data drive day 2, other half day 3, and repeat.

    What I want is load off the DCs and more storage with data safety.

    Now a few things to clear up my knowedge.

    SAN adds storage to the server over the network assuming by a second network interface. so Client connects to server > server connects to SAN > data comes from san through DC to client. This still leaves the DCs loaded with alot of user activity in my mind and might not be the answer to my problem. Am I correct? My DCs are connected to the core switch by 1GB copper and I'm concerned this will be a bottle neck with this many conncurrent clients.

    NAS adds storage on the network so my users would have they're profile and home folders mapped to //NAS/Home$/yeargroup/user for example. NAS / storage server would have to enforce permissions of course and my DCs would be freed up. The new box would be bought with better network connectivity I have 2 free modules on my Core switch and numerous free copper GB connections that it could use to get network wire speed as close to the disk access speed as possible.

    My goals here and Data security with good redundancy for uptime and of course good backup in case of catastrophic failure.

    Any comment and product recomendations would be welcomed. I'll be talking to dell and HP over the next few days and asking they're advice but I really need some realworld knowledge to go with that. School networks are somewhat unique due to our very high ratio of users to clients. We see far more logon traffic than any coporate network that I've been involved with before.

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    Re: New storage server? or something else?

    I don't think you would be able to buy all the hardware for SAN on 5K, you'd just about afford a fibre switch. If you can do it for this let me know.

    Mark

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    Re: New storage server? or something else?

    My thoughts exactly. I don't think SAN helps me without increasing throughput on the DCs themselves in some way as well. I think a new server with a good raid 5 array with hot spare(s) in a machine optimised for as much network throughput as I can get and running 2k3 R2 for quota management is my best bet. That should be within my 5k I'm ordering 36 desktops with this as well so I have a littel wiggle room. But looking at SAN it seems to be unrealistic to impliment it with less than 10k.

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    Re: New storage server? or something else?

    BIG powerful server 'n' fast drives!!

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    Re: New storage server? or something else?

    I use a big HP Prolaint ML370 G5 with big SAS Drive in it, and an Ultrium 3 drive, with Server 2003 R2 on it, does the job very well, and if and when you get a SAN / NAS etc you can just re-format and you got a very good server for Exchange, Domain Controller etc

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