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Hardware Thread, HP MicroServer as SIMS server in Technical; We're due a new SIMS.net server and I was wonding if anyone has used / is using one of these ...
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    HP MicroServer as SIMS server

    We're due a new SIMS.net server and I was wonding if anyone has used / is using one of these little boxes:

    HP ProLiant Turion II N40L MicroServer - 100.. | Ebuyer.com

    We are a primary school and we only use SIMS for the basics (attendance, assessment and FMS), never more than 3 simultaneous connections.

    I've checked the SIMS.net min spec and it says 3Ghz so it's down on CPU but it will be upgraded to 4GB RAM and an extra 2 HDD's (1st drive - O/S, 2nd Drive -SIMS, FMS and MS Office, 3rd Drive - Backup)

    Gotta be better than our 8yo Viglen server with 2GB ram and 2 (very clicky) SCSI drives?

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    SYNACK's Avatar
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    Ghz is a very poor measure of performance for CPUs, it all depends on the performance of SQL MS site shows the min as 1.4Ghz Hardware and Software Requirements for Installing SQL Server 2008 R2 and the AMD has two cores.

    As a primary school you may well be running under SQL express which has lower memory limits and only runs on one core per instance.

    It should be possible but it will be slow and you would really want to test it or find someone who has already done it.

    Some of the important questions to ask would be how many staff do you have using it at any one time (max). Do they all hit it at the same time for stuff like rolls etc. How many students must it manage as that can determine how fast reports and such run. How many PCs or other devices will be hitting the server, programs left on, automated exports etc.

    With more of an idea of loading you may get better answers.

    Disclaimer: I don't and have never run SIMS but have heard a lot about it and its components on this forum @vikpaw or many of the others will know more as they have dealt with it directly.

    Edit: Oh and for drives, look into RAID where drives are mirrored, a third drive in the same system for a backup stage can be good but cannot be considered an actual backup as it is not seporate and would be cooked by the same virus/surge/fire/builder/electrition that took out the server if that was the case.
    Last edited by SYNACK; 4th December 2011 at 12:15 AM.

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    morganw's Avatar
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    If it's critical to keep SIMS going I would rule out a Microserver because you can't have a redundant power supply.
    I've not used Windows on one but I think it has a fake-raid style controller built in so you may as well do something like,

    Disk1+Disk2 RAID1 for OS
    Disk3+Disk4 RAID1 for database

    Then backup the database over the network.

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    The Micro Server isn't designed to be much more than a storage box for a small/medium business. Certainly not hosting decent sized active directory’s and most defiantly not databases (like SIMS and its MS SQL database).

    If you look at it as-
    Micro Server - 2-10 employees (HP sells them cheap to get a foot hold in the market)
    HP ML Tower Server - 10 - 100 employees (ideal for a primary - more expensive but with many good features like 'real' RAID controllers)
    HP DL Rack Server - 100+ employees (ideal for most secondary’s - extremely flexible servers with all the bells and whistles)

    My suggestion for your (apparent) need would be a HP ML110 G7 server, push it up to a Quad Core Xeon, 8GB RAM, 2x250GB HDDs for OS/SIMS/ect and then 2x1TB HDDs for your storage. Use something like the HP P212 RAID controller and you will be cooking on gas. Make sure you put on a 3 year warranty (even if its just parts) and as you are a school Windows Server 2008 R2 would be cheap as chips (you could even make a virtual machine of your existing viglen server until you are ready to move everything over to Server 2008 R2).
    That kind of server should cost about 1,250 (yes I’m sorry but you are going to have to spend some real money).

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    Have to agree with jamesfed. We have an older ML110 I think its either a g6 or g5, which is just for admin so around 15 clients of which around 6 use sims, for similar use as yourself PrimaryTech attendance and fms. Sometimes it can really lag.

    So the spec what jamesfed is mentioning would really be the basic you could use in my opinion.

    I think for basic file serving the microserver would be good but not for sims.

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    Just following on from above - if you really want to make SIMS work fast then put it on a solid state drive.

    We are playing around with a OCZ Revo drive at the moment and every virtual machine we put on it gets an instant boost (especially things that deal with databases) only thing is you would be looking at least another 450 on top and this would OTT for any primary anyways.

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    morganw's Avatar
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    While I don't think the Microserver is ideal here I don't agree with the above.
    I see no problem in using one as a domain controller, that is probably the least intensive server role you will find.
    I see no problem in using one to host a database as long as you take into account the size and use of the database. If the database is small enough to be cached in the proposed 4GB of RAM, and the disks used are enterprise grade, the only limiting factor is the CPU. If the current server is 8 years old with 2GB of RAM and no one is complaining about speed, then obviously the load must be fairly light.
    Personally I wouldn't use one, and would get something more powerful but that isn't to say it wouldn't work.

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    These guys are spot on. Don't go for the cheapest thing out there, even if you think you hardly use SIMS, think about the situation if you couldn't use SIMS. Even for 3 people, for FMS etc. You'd be on the firing line.

    You need to have a decent spec, and it pays to plan a little for the future, so if you might increase usage, or allow teaching staff access to more area then you will need it. Overtime, thing may need to be added, e.g. the new system for upgrading SIMS, you are looking at running SOLUS3 - do you have other servers that can do this? Also, the free Discover tool, that analyses data, at some point someone may want to use that, and it needs to be a separate database (not necessarily server), but plan to expand.

    Definitely want mirrored OS and separate Data, at least 3 disks for data, so you can stripe.

    If you are only on Express, that's okay, but check the limitations, for CPU (only 1 i think, as well as throttled), RAM is curtailed, and the size of the DB will have an impact. If you database is over 1GB go for full SQL, it should be quite cheap, you could even start by licensing per user/seat if you only have a few.

    Consider a separate device for backup. They will be made locally, but you need to take them off and elsewhere, so another machine, or ideally a tape drive.

    Redundant power supply is ideal, but a UPS would be handy, even on a single supply unit.

    Lastly, consider virtualising, so if you are buying a fairly good spec server, you can add virtual machines for other services as mentioned earlier, or create a test box.

    sorry took so long to hit reply as got called away, others have answered, now, but you may find of interest

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    morganw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamesfed View Post
    Just following on from above - if you really want to make SIMS work fast then put it on a solid state drive.

    We are playing around with a OCZ Revo drive at the moment and every virtual machine we put on it gets an instant boost (especially things that deal with databases) only thing is you would be looking at least another 450 on top and this would OTT for any primary anyways.
    If the database can cache into RAM then the performance difference won't be that big to having the database on an SSD. I think for SQL Server Express you can only cache into 1GB though so if you database is bigger than this it will be constantly using the disk.

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    Quote Originally Posted by morganw View Post
    If the database can cache into RAM then the performance difference won't be that big to having the database on an SSD. I think for SQL Server Express you can only cache into 1GB though so if you database is bigger than this it will be constantly using the disk.
    The big benifit of SSDs is their ablity to write random data - so your database sits in RAM but thats read only as if your server were to loose power you would loose the data in RAM. As such writes need to be made asap and no RAID0 array of 15k disks will ever match a single SSD for random writes.

    Naturaly at this state we are talking about mahooisve databases (far beyond that of a primary...).

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    morganw's Avatar
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    Aren't most of the database transactions going to be reads though (e.g. running reports)? And most of the writes fairly small scale (e.g. taking a register)?

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    jamesfed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by morganw View Post
    Aren't most of the database transactions going to be reads though (e.g. running reports)? And most of the writes fairly small scale (e.g. taking a register)?
    Hence me saying about mahoosive databases

    Either way pre caching the whole SIMS database in RAM would still hammer your HDDs while it actually reads the data - SSD you have the massive ability to read lots and lots of data very fast (just look in the hardware forum for the DL165 G7 and REVO drive thread).

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    Get one, it'll be fine !
    I've got primaries using these as their only server - combined DC, SIMS, Anti-virus, etc. and no problems.

    SIMS is a monstrous system for most primaries, they use only a fraction of what it can do -
    the usage will be very low, performance not an issue.

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    Cheers for the detailed response guys. To flesh it out the server would be just running SIMS, I have a seperate DC for AD, file server etc. There are never more that 3 concurrent connections, myself, Receptionist and Secretary. Receptionist uses SIMS for attendance, contact details and a few reports, Secretary runs reports and does all the FMS stuff and I do updates, adding/removing pupils. Our current SIMS server is backed up to a NAS each night using Windows Server Backup (mounting a VHD and restoring the SQL database is so much less painless than the tapes we used to use)

    Looking at the majority of responses we'll need to get a decent mid-range server, we are running SQL 2008 Express so I'll need to check the limitations, our DB's are 520MB SIMS, 200 FMS.

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    glennda's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PrimaryTech View Post
    Cheers for the detailed response guys. To flesh it out the server would be just running SIMS, I have a seperate DC for AD, file server etc. There are never more that 3 concurrent connections, myself, Receptionist and Secretary. Receptionist uses SIMS for attendance, contact details and a few reports, Secretary runs reports and does all the FMS stuff and I do updates, adding/removing pupils. Our current SIMS server is backed up to a NAS each night using Windows Server Backup (mounting a VHD and restoring the SQL database is so much less painless than the tapes we used to use)

    Looking at the majority of responses we'll need to get a decent mid-range server, we are running SQL 2008 Express so I'll need to check the limitations, our DB's are 520MB SIMS, 200 FMS.
    Corr i wish my database was only 520mb! mines nearer 9gb! Personally i don't think from what you are saying that you need a massivly high spec server. In your shoes I would look towards something like this

    HP ProLiant ML110 G7 G840 1P 2GB-U 250GB 350W PS Svr/TV (470065-612) specifications - HP Small & Medium Business products

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