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MIS Systems Thread, SIMS system requirements in Technical; Hello, all - wonder if anyone could help out a long-term lurker with a SIMS server question... A school with ...
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    SIMS system requirements

    Hello, all - wonder if anyone could help out a long-term lurker with a SIMS server question...

    A school with which I am acquainted has recently been told that their SIMS server will shortly become obsolete, due to the fact that some upcoming, unspecified update will not work on it. I don't have the exact specs, but it's a competent (albeit unexciting) machine running Server 2003. It's in an average-sized primary school, and only two people there use SIMS.

    I can't find out much on the system requirements for SIMS - and I imagine it depends to a large extent upon how it will be used - but the machine that the County ICT people are peddling seems ridiculously overspecced - 2xQuad Core Xeon, 16gb memory, 6x 146gb HDD, dual hot-swap 750 watt PSUs, etc, etc - for the low, low price of nearly 4k.

    I cannot believe that SIMS is going from something what will run upon a fairly generic PC, to something that requires this overblown behemoth, in the space of one update. So, my questions are - what would be considered a decent machine for a primary school SIMS server? What update is in the pipeline, meaning that the SIMS servers all have to be updated (it's not just this one school - all the other primary schools in the area are being told the same thing)? What about remote hosting of SIMS? Is this a good idea, and if so, who would host it, and for how much?

    And last, but not least - how can it be considered fair, moral, or even legal for County to insist that a small primary school buys its over-specced, over-priced juggernaut if the school wishes to retain support from the SIMS helpline there? On no account will they offer SIMS support to any server not provided by themselves...


    Thanks for any advice,

    -dave

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    mounters's Avatar
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    The update they will be referring to is the requirement for SIMS to migrate to SQL Server 2008.

    If you logon to Capita SupportNet you can get documentation relating to the hardware requirements required for SIMS, I agree that the specs you have provided do seem a little bit overkill.

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    I don't think SQL Server 2003 is supported anymore. SQL Server 2005 will not be supported after October 2010. Not sure about Microsoft Windows 2003 Server.
    This does not automatically mean they will not work - though they ought to be updated asap.

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    does this help
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    localzuk's Avatar
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    The server spec may seem like a lot *now* but SIMS.net's requirements have increased a lot over the last couple of years. Looking at it from our school's point of view, we put in a new server 3 years ago, and it used about 5% of the CPU and half the memory. Now, it is using about 25% of the CPU and all of the memory. That's in 3 years. I would expect a server to do its job for 5 years really.

    However, I'd suggest that in a primary, a single CPU would be plenty, even for 5 years. and 16GB RAM would be about double what I'd put in it for that time. The HDD's would seem a bit much - I'd be going for 4 - 2 RAID arrays of 2 each then. One for OS and one for Data.

    So, it is a little overspec, but not hugely so. Probably to the tune of about £1k too much.

    With the incoming requirements for external data access etc..., the demand on the servers will increase dramatically over the next year or so, so don't write it off straight away.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Medium_Dave View Post
    I can't find out much on the system requirements for SIMS - and I imagine it depends to a large extent upon how it will be used - but the machine that the County ICT people are peddling seems ridiculously overspecced - 2xQuad Core Xeon, 16gb memory, 6x 146gb HDD, dual hot-swap 750 watt PSUs, etc, etc - for the low, low price of nearly 4k.
    You can understand their reasoning - do it once, now, and not have to update the hardware again for 7 years.

    The SIMS server works fine being run as a virtual machine (we've currently given ours about 60GB of disk and 1GB of RAM, it seems to be running fine), so you could use the above server for stuff other than SIMS - £4,000 sounds a bit more reasonable for an all-in-one machine for the whole school. If you have a Windows-based network you'll want Windows Enterprise or Datacentre (around £300 at education prices, pretty reasonable) so you can have more than one Windows VM.

    The SIMS client also works just fine over Terminal Services, so county could host SIMS for the school and users could log in via a couple of remote desktop links.

    Edit: add a couple of external 3-disk RAID-5 arrays on eSATA connections (get cheap 1TB drives and a couple of cheap RAID enclosures) and you've got enough central storage and processing power to be a domain controller, file server and print server, all in one.

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    Last edited by dhicks; 18th November 2009 at 01:52 PM.

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    Over Spec for 2 users

    Quote Originally Posted by Medium_Dave View Post
    Hello, all - wonder if anyone could help out a long-term lurker with a SIMS server question...

    A school with which I am acquainted has recently been told that their SIMS server will shortly become obsolete, due to the fact that some upcoming, unspecified update will not work on it. I don't have the exact specs, but it's a competent (albeit unexciting) machine running Server 2003. It's in an average-sized primary school, and only two people there use SIMS.

    I can't find out much on the system requirements for SIMS - and I imagine it depends to a large extent upon how it will be used - but the machine that the County ICT people are peddling seems ridiculously overspecced - 2xQuad Core Xeon, 16gb memory, 6x 146gb HDD, dual hot-swap 750 watt PSUs, etc, etc - for the low, low price of nearly 4k.

    I cannot believe that SIMS is going from something what will run upon a fairly generic PC, to something that requires this overblown behemoth, in the space of one update. So, my questions are - what would be considered a decent machine for a primary school SIMS server? What update is in the pipeline, meaning that the SIMS servers all have to be updated (it's not just this one school - all the other primary schools in the area are being told the same thing)? What about remote hosting of SIMS? Is this a good idea, and if so, who would host it, and for how much?

    And last, but not least - how can it be considered fair, moral, or even legal for County to insist that a small primary school buys its over-specced, over-priced juggernaut if the school wishes to retain support from the SIMS helpline there? On no account will they offer SIMS support to any server not provided by themselves...


    Thanks for any advice,

    -dave
    I agree with Localzuk - if you only have 2 people running Sims you really dont need to layout for a server that would probably run a School with 200 - 300 users.
    I would suggest a single dual/quad core, 4-8GB RAM, and if you really do only have 2 staff using it I would probably just suggest a single RAID 1 array.
    The main thing you will need is robustness and enough power to handle the next few years updates.
    Another suggestion would be to buy the box suggested and virtualise the Sims server and then you have room to add a couple more virtual servers on your new box.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AndyNDuffy View Post
    I agree with Localzuk - if you only have 2 people running Sims you really dont need to layout for a server that would probably run a School with 200 - 300 users.
    Agreed, I expect the number of SIMS Users in school will increase largely in the coming years although the extent of this depends on your definition of an "average sized" primary school.


    Quote Originally Posted by localzuk View Post
    Looking at it from our school's point of view, we put in a new server 3 years ago, and it used about 5% of the CPU and half the memory. Now, it is using about 25% of the CPU and all of the memory. That's in 3 years. I would expect a server to do its job for 5 years really.
    Agreed - the SIMS demands will get greater on the Server but the Server doesn't have to be just for SIMS, I'd wholeheartedly agree with expecting any new Server to do a job for 5 years.


    Quote Originally Posted by Medium_Dave View Post
    A school with which I am acquainted has recently been told that their SIMS server will shortly become obsolete, due to the fact that some upcoming, unspecified update will not work on it.
    This sounds like mis information or misinterpretation of advice to me as far as I am aware SQL 2008 will work on the box you described. Capita have no end date planned for support of Server 2003 at the time of writing (see attached file - end of support tab).

    I suspect the LA have detected that the box isn't brilliant and you'll have to replace it sooner or later anyway. If they are actively involved in supporting the school then from their point of view it would be sensible to migrate the SIMS Database to SQL 2008 at the same time as replacing the box - two birds, one stone.

    Quote Originally Posted by Medium_Dave View Post
    And last, but not least - how can it be considered fair, moral, or even legal for County to insist that a small primary school buys its over-specced, over-priced juggernaut if the school wishes to retain support from the SIMS helpline there? On no account will they offer SIMS support to any server not provided by themselves...
    Again misinformation or misinterpretation here, it depends on how your LA and schools work with one another but in out LA schools are pretty much autonomous and can do what they like for hardware. What you've written here sounds like advice given for an ideal world and not a hard and fast - "you must do/buy this".

    I hope this is some help...
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    Last edited by superfletch; 18th November 2009 at 02:19 PM.

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    It's stupid to have loads of cores, the sims database will only use a max of 2. It's better to have fast cores then nos.

    Primaries totally agree, what's wrong with a 4gb ram, c2d system? Still central hostings the way to go, most LAs are doing it or at least looking at it, I know Capita offer it if not. Seems stupid to have a sims server if you have only a few sims users. Also takes away the problems of upgrades and backups etc.

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    Thanks for the help so far - very informative, and quite a lot to think about.

    By the by - County are adamant that they won't provide any support, at all, to any system they've not built and sold (at somewhat over market price). I've not misinterpreted this; the question has been asked repeatedly, and at length. I don't see how they are able to do this when in every other instance, schools are obliged to get three quotes and use the cheapest...

    Does anyone have much experience with having SIMS hosted for them? I'm pretty sure County do not offer this - is it correct to assume that Capita do? If so, what sort of support do they offer? I can't find much about it other than a contact number - very little in the way of facts and figures.

    Cheers,

    -dave

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    Quote Originally Posted by Medium_Dave
    I don't see how they are able to do this when in every other instance, schools are obliged to get three quotes and use the cheapest...
    No... best value (TOC), not the cheapest, big difference.

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    Quote Originally Posted by matt40k View Post
    It's stupid to have loads of cores, the sims database will only use a max of 2. It's better to have fast cores then nos.

    Primaries totally agree, what's wrong with a 4gb ram, c2d system? Still central hostings the way to go, most LAs are doing it or at least looking at it, I know Capita offer it if not. Seems stupid to have a sims server if you have only a few sims users. Also takes away the problems of upgrades and backups etc.
    It might only have a few users now. But in 2 years, when parents are all getting their child's reports, attendance etc from it? That's a lot of extra demand.

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    Quote Originally Posted by matt40k View Post
    No... best value (TOC), not the cheapest, big difference.
    Indeed - I phrased that badly. Nevertheless, Country are neither. Were it not for the fact they tie their office support to their hardware sales, they'd not sell so much as a floppy disk.

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    Quote Originally Posted by localzuk View Post
    It might only have a few users now. But in 2 years, when parents are all getting their child's reports, attendance etc from it? That's a lot of extra demand.
    Really! reports and attendance comming directly from the Sims server?? I would have thought they would connect to a seperate webserver hosting that kind of thing.

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    localzuk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndyNDuffy View Post
    Really! reports and attendance comming directly from the Sims server?? I would have thought they would connect to a seperate webserver hosting that kind of thing.
    Yes, a seperate web server is usually involved, but the data still has to come from the SIMS server... Otherwise, it isn't realtime data.



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