+ Post New Thread
Page 1 of 5 12345 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 68
Hardware Thread, Do schools spend more money on back-end ICT than is necessary? in Technical; Hi all, I am facing a bit of a dilemma. I currently work in a school where the budget is ...
  1. #1

    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Posts
    132
    Thank Post
    15
    Thanked 11 Times in 8 Posts
    Rep Power
    13

    Do schools spend more money on back-end ICT than is necessary?

    Hi all,

    I am facing a bit of a dilemma. I currently work in a school where the budget is very closely looked at (as it should be) and justifying any kind of large expenditure is extremely difficult.

    We had a new school built four years ago with a server infrastructure which consisted of 12 servers (Dell Blade) and an EMC SAN. As we are entering the fifth year (and have no remaining maintenance agreements in place) I am getting extremely twitchy and want to start a rolling program of upgrades. This has lead me initially to a number of key questions which I will pose below:

    • Why go for a SAN over a NAS? Enterprise level NAS boxes (ie. Thecus N12000) seem to have EVERYTHING you would want in a storage solution (redundant power supplies, support for SAS drives etc.) at a lower cost, with a 5 year support contract. Considering we are not running a huge data centre would this not be an acceptable compromise.
    • We are looking into virtualisation very closely and are due to have a couple of the larger companies out in the near future to provide quotes on what they would think would be suitable. I have already heard figures of £60000ish being thrown around and think this seems extremely expensive to fulfil the NEEDs of our school (900 students on roll). Essentially we use our servers as file stores, nothing more. Our major demands (as with most schools) are the SIMs server and our email server. The rest is pretty much hosting files and processing logins/managing AD etc. Why would we NEED such high spec servers?
    • Future-proofing - is this as important as everyone seems to think? We are currently into year 4 with our server equipment which was average at best at the time... is it still fulfilling our needs? Absolutely! My feelings are that when you have to consider that servers pretty much have to be replaced on a ~5year basis due to the rising cost (and unavailability) of support it makes absolutely no sense to plan further ahead than this and, to be honest, I believe hardware requirements for educational systems are on the decrease due to cloud based systems.


    You may notice that I have used the word NEED a lot in this. When I am preparing my plan for SMT I am very keen only to go in with what we NEED to ensure the network is of a suitable level for the school, I am now in the process of working out what that is and if anyone has any feedback, arguments against or suggestions based on the above it would be very much appreciated!!!

  2. Thanks to CyBeRkId2002 from:

    speckytecky (6th July 2012)

  3. #2

    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Rayleigh
    Posts
    115
    Thank Post
    21
    Thanked 20 Times in 20 Posts
    Blog Entries
    1
    Rep Power
    9
    I am currently in the process of refreshing the server and storage infrastructure at my school. I have been here for almost one academic year now. I have been patient with that they already had onsite. A bespoke Unix platform with so many open source applications to make it compatible with Windows on the desktop, etc. Total cost for a new PDC, 2 x Virtual servers (hosting 4 servers each), SAN, smaller SAN for replication, ups and kvm and a switch management/reconfiguration = £30k.

    There have been and will be other costs related to bringing out rationalisation and improvements to the cabinets and cabling across the school site, i.e. new fibre links, new cabinets that allow the cabling and switches to fit inside the cabinet!

  4. #3

    Domino's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Bromley
    Posts
    4,126
    Thank Post
    215
    Thanked 1,255 Times in 786 Posts
    Blog Entries
    4
    Rep Power
    505
    Well hang on, if that's your thoughts, why are you looking at virtualisation? Why did you buy a blade centre and not virtualise on it?

    The question isn't what you need now - it's how you can reduce future costs through new tech, or give better value to the staff and students.

    If you went thin client everywhere you could conceivably remove desktop replacement costs. A virtualised blade centre could have increased redundancy, reducing downtime and also having a upgrade route cheaper than new servers each time. A larger outlay on a decent SAN, etc will last longer than an equivilant low spec model - a higher performance point initally will mean it'll be much longer before you hit a performance issue.

    You're 4 years in with no performance hit BECAUSE your inital spec was high level. not in spite of it.

    To be honest, I feel if you're not pushing things forward then why bother at all? Do you NEED XP, etc. Windows 98 worked....

  5. #4

    twin--turbo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Carlisle
    Posts
    2,334
    Thank Post
    1
    Thanked 381 Times in 340 Posts
    Rep Power
    150
    If your simply virtualising a handful of existing servers then £60K is way more than you need to be spending. A 3 Node vMware cluster will handle your requirements by the sound of it with n+1.

    Rob

  6. #5

    localzuk's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Minehead
    Posts
    17,652
    Thank Post
    516
    Thanked 2,443 Times in 1,891 Posts
    Blog Entries
    24
    Rep Power
    831
    £60k for server side gear for virtualisation in that size school is overkill. For us, a 1200 pupil, 200 staff school, we'd be looking at £30k tops. That'd cover 3 VM hosts, a fibre channel switch and HBAs and a SAN with enough storage and speed to handle everything easily for 3 - 5 years.

  7. #6


    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Posts
    8,202
    Thank Post
    442
    Thanked 1,032 Times in 812 Posts
    Rep Power
    339
    If you're virtualising with high availability failover then you can get away with using lots of lower cost machines.
    It doesn't matter if they fall over, thats the point of high availability.

    We just bought 12x (intel DX79TO boards, i7 3820, 32GB RAM and intel SSD's) for £5k.
    We use it for a citrix farm - but the same principal applies to virtualisation.

  8. #7

    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Posts
    132
    Thank Post
    15
    Thanked 11 Times in 8 Posts
    Rep Power
    13
    sorry, I don't think I have made myself clear on a few points;

    Domino > I feel that we HAVE to do something now or in the near future as our current servers and SAN are not covered by any kind of maintenance and as time passes, so does the risk of hardware failure. The point at which I feel the risk of this failure is becoming unacceptable to us as a school is getting closer. Also, the point on a higher outlay on a SAN so it will last longer is exactly what I am getting at... it may well last longer, but without support how long would you want to risk that? As such should we not be simply looking for something which fulfills the task at the present time and the immediate (~5 year) future and comes with (for example) a 5 year warranty with the plan of replacing at the end of this period?

    twin--turbo & localzuk > This was exactly my thought but I am fairly certain the two companies I have coming in will quote based on the best systems they can provide, quoting future-proofing and further capacity as the reason in which we need it, and I quite simply don't think that's the case. I think ahead of the meeting I am going to have to do some serious investigation into what our servers are using at the minute and not let them run wild on the spec.

  9. #8


    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Posts
    8,202
    Thank Post
    442
    Thanked 1,032 Times in 812 Posts
    Rep Power
    339
    Another option - spend all your money on redundant/faster internet and put it all on EC2

  10. #9

    tmcd35's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Norfolk
    Posts
    5,620
    Thank Post
    845
    Thanked 883 Times in 731 Posts
    Blog Entries
    9
    Rep Power
    326
    What are the spec's of the existing SAN and blades? Have you looked at the cost of buying one or two new replacement drives or looked at a rolling replacement for the drives in the existing SAN? My initial instinct is spending £60k on a whole sale replacement is way over the top, especially if your not making full use of the existing infrastructure.

  11. #10
    jamesfed's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Reading
    Posts
    2,193
    Thank Post
    134
    Thanked 340 Times in 287 Posts
    Rep Power
    84
    SAN and Blades for a school of 900?

    We are at 800 and have pretty much everything vital on 2x HP DL165 G7 (1Us) with Hyper-V running VMs on either the 4x2TB HDDs or PCI-E SSD - total spend hasn't gone over £8,500 yet.

    The servers have been setup so that everything vital (Firewall/AD/File Storage/DNS/DHCP) has a duplicate in a cluster on the other server so we could loose one and the school would keep on running (ok maybe without Printing ect).

    Our VDI runs on local PCI-E SSD storage as well (no SAN) and we are deploying a 4x RDS cluster similar to @CyberNerd over the summer holiday - again no SAN required because of built in fail over/clustering.

    IMO a SAN isn't always the answer most of the time with a decent Hyper-V host and using built in fail over/clustering technology in 2k8R2 you can get away with an 'acceptable risk'.

    In your case a pair of DL385 G7/G8s with the hard drives maxed out to give you a similar setup (WITHOUT a SAN) wouldn't go much over £15k (depending on how much data you have).
    Last edited by jamesfed; 5th July 2012 at 10:14 AM.

  12. Thanks to jamesfed from:

    speckytecky (6th July 2012)

  13. #11

    glennda's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Sussex
    Posts
    7,800
    Thank Post
    272
    Thanked 1,135 Times in 1,031 Posts
    Rep Power
    349
    Personally Sans are the way forward in Terms when Virtualizing. Plus with Modern day processors and ram being so cheap you can setup a 3 node cluster with failover including a SAN very easily for 25/30k.

    Personally I would be looking at HP DL360's Dual 6 Core Xeons with about 100Gb ram in each host (they can take 768GB). Then either a 10GB ISCSI or 8Gb FC SAN or Switched SAS (being the cheapest i believe).

    I wouldn't want to be running an entire school on something that is out of warranty.

  14. Thanks to glennda from:

    speckytecky (6th July 2012)

  15. #12

    tmcd35's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Norfolk
    Posts
    5,620
    Thank Post
    845
    Thanked 883 Times in 731 Posts
    Blog Entries
    9
    Rep Power
    326
    Quote Originally Posted by glennda View Post
    I wouldn't want to be running an entire school on something that is out of warranty.
    Personnally I'd say there are a couple of other things to take into account. I think the spec of the existing equipment is important to know, How much is cost a factor?, and what will happen next time things need replacing updating?

    I tend to favour the approach of canabalising existing equipment and setting up a rolling replacement program over the next few years.

  16. #13
    jamesfed's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Reading
    Posts
    2,193
    Thank Post
    134
    Thanked 340 Times in 287 Posts
    Rep Power
    84
    One thing to add in HP will give you cash back on pretty much any server trade ins - could help you offset some of the cost of any new kit.

  17. #14

    glennda's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Sussex
    Posts
    7,800
    Thank Post
    272
    Thanked 1,135 Times in 1,031 Posts
    Rep Power
    349
    Quote Originally Posted by jamesfed View Post
    One thing to add in HP will give you cash back on pretty much any server trade ins - could help you offset some of the cost of any new kit.
    And at the moment they have some very good offers on - double the standard ram and get a free second proc (possibly like £600 off). Also 50% cashback on the MSA2000 so all in all you can save a lot!

  18. #15

    Domino's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Bromley
    Posts
    4,126
    Thank Post
    215
    Thanked 1,255 Times in 786 Posts
    Blog Entries
    4
    Rep Power
    505
    Quote Originally Posted by glennda View Post
    And at the moment they have some very good offers on - double the standard ram and get a free second proc (possibly like £600 off). Also 50% cashback on the MSA2000 so all in all you can save a lot!
    Check your expected throughput before buying a MSA2000!

    Ours COULD NOT COPE with the load, I had to immediately replace the controllers with 2312's cause everything was grinding to a halt.

SHARE:
+ Post New Thread
Page 1 of 5 12345 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. What to spend the money on...
    By Chuckster in forum General Chat
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 18th February 2011, 10:03 PM
  2. I have money to spend but what on? HELP!
    By reggiep in forum General Chat
    Replies: 50
    Last Post: 18th March 2009, 04:38 PM
  3. What can we spend money on???
    By gibbo_ap in forum General Chat
    Replies: 9
    Last Post: 24th February 2009, 12:14 PM
  4. What can we spend Harnessing & Technology money on?
    By Kyle in forum How do you do....it?
    Replies: 9
    Last Post: 1st October 2008, 01:04 PM

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •