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MIS Systems Thread, SIMS Server Hardware for a large School in Technical; On the same topic (and I dare say may come in for some criticism somewhere along the way), I am ...
  1. #16

    GREED's Avatar
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    On the same topic (and I dare say may come in for some criticism somewhere along the way), I am about to blog this for reference, but I came up with this list over time fot things to consider when upgrading SIMS server, not just the new hardware. It might jogs some memories or be of use, I hope it is here:

    - What is the current server technology (Server 2003 for example), and can this be upgraded during the process (Ensuring any version chosen is supported)?
    - What is the current server technology (SQL Server 2003 for example), and can this be upgraded during the process (Ensuring any version chosen is supported, and proper migration paths are taken)?
    - What hardware will the new server use (Memory, Processor, Architecture), can this be maximised cost effectively?
    - Will the organisation be implementing additional features that will need additional storage or network connectivity (SLG/VLE for example), and can additional hardware be implemented at this stage?
    - Can the setup be made more efficient by changing the location of the databases to a RAID 0 or 0+1 drive set (striped drives for faster read/write access), ensured redundancy (RAID 1 or 0+1) and ensured minimal other services run on the server?
    - Can the physical server network connections be made any more efficient, or can the bandwidth be increased (teaming network card, faster switches, dedicated switches).
    - How do I backup the database, perhaps using SSMS (SQL Server Management Studio) maintenance plans and backup up that backup?
    - Can I implement a redundant SIMS server to take over in case of failure (costly, but if you are backing up every night, and keeping the redundant server up to date, you only need to restore the database to the new drive
    - Where do the client PCs point currently (connect.ini) in terms of server; can a more robust solution be implemented during this transition (implementation of a redirect connect.ini file to point to a single, central connect.ini would also cater for switching between main and redundant SIMS servers if in place, by just changing the central connect.ini details)?
    - What other information points to the current server (sims.ini) that would need to change (Implementation of a standard sim.ini copied out across the network)?
    - What additional services NEED to run on the SIMS server, can any be moved away?
    - Remember to also move the SIMS Setups folder, Doc Storage folder, SNOVA folder and other folders to the shared network drive location, if being moved also.

    All of this is to reduce future upgrades where possible, if possible.

  2. #17
    Sivadam's Avatar
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    Now you need to reserve space for Discover and CHQ (whatever that is)!

    OH! Maybe InTouch as well!?
    Last edited by Sivadam; 1st February 2011 at 03:19 PM.

  3. #18

    GREED's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sivadam View Post
    Now you need to reserve space for Discover and CHQ (whatever that is)!

    OH! Maybe InTouch as well!?
    Thanks, I'll add it to the polished list. These were things I found out over time, noted down but never did anything with. Sorts of things to get the SIMS (or any MIS!) up to peak performance without having to do too much intrusive work!

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    Butuz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3s-gtech View Post
    We have an HP server with 4GB of RAM (32bit OS) and a quad core 2GHz Xeon, so well under their recommended now. We only have 75 or so concurrent users at most though. Running SQL Express 2008. CPU useage is never above 25%, and tends to stay less than 10%..
    Hi 3s-gtech

    The reason your CPU use is never above 25% is because SQL Express edition only uses one CPU core - thus SIMS will never be able to use more than 25% cpu usage in task manager, and in fact 25% usage means SIMS is flat out and gagging for more CPUs. It also has a 1GB RAM limit so upgrading your ram from 4 to 8GB will make no difference. The best upgrade you could make would be to move from SQL Express to the Standard version thus quadrupling the amount of CPU power and memory available for SIMS to use. That should give SIMS performance a good kick up the bum even though you are already happy.

    Butuz
    Last edited by Butuz; 1st February 2011 at 03:34 PM.

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    3s-gtech (1st February 2011)

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    We are currently looking at Upgrading our SIMs server as running at 100% most of day,although we are over recommended min spec. We have sourced HP suitable server but RM have quoted for same specs at £1000 less. Does anyone have feedback on RM servers and support reliability?

    Nigel

  7. #21

    3s-gtech's Avatar
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    ^^Cheers, yeah that makes sense. Definitely not a good time to be investing in SQL Server here, and our SIMS support is through the LEA, but it would be nice. It doesn't hold at 25% to be fair, infrequent spikes up to that. I thought the 1GB limit was the database though, as the SQL Server instance is currently using 1.5GB.
    Last edited by 3s-gtech; 1st February 2011 at 05:22 PM.

  8. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by 3s-gtech View Post
    ^^Cheers, yeah that makes sense. Definitely not a good time to be investing in SQL Server here, and our SIMS support is through the LEA, but it would be nice. It doesn't hold at 25% to be fair, infrequent spikes up to that. I thought the 1GB limit was the database though, as the SQL Server instance is currently using 1.5GB.
    if you have a schools aggreement then sql is around £75 per year.

    Also @Nigel_phillips and other people looking at sims servers running near 100% cpu most of the day. If you have sims profiles which have the graphs on try disabling the Sims Attendance graph From what i have seen this has drasticly reduced the SQL processing as if you look at a sql process explorer you notice that every (can't remember how often it is) that the graph refreshes it causes 100% of a single CPU therefore if you have multiple cores and lots of users this slows down drastically. It is what i disabled as i moved to the VM with lots of ram but it seems to have completely stopped now using full sql. Only time its got above 75% usage was last week when they created the new academic year.

  9. #23

    matt40k's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by glennda View Post
    if you have a schools aggreement then sql is around £75 per year.
    Is that a processor license? Otherwise you'll need CALs.

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    glennda's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by matt40k View Post
    Is that a processor license? Otherwise you'll need CALs.
    sorry i meant to go back and add that afterwards but forgot - we get a client access pack or something like that which has all the cals you need bundled in.

  11. #25
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    Short post this.

    Multi core CPU's coupled with full SQL.

    Go for SSD's and as much memory as you can.

    Personally I think SSD's and memory will make the most difference.

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    Sorry to dig up an old thread... just wanted to clarify something. I thought, even if you are running the full SQL (as we are) SIMs isn't actually programmed to take advantage of more than one core/CPU. Is that still the case or have things moved on since I last checked?

    Michael

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    Butuz's Avatar
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    On the server SQL 2008 is fully multithreaded. I've watched it use 100% of 4 cores on my server.

    The SIMS workstation software on the other hand is not multithreaded.

    Butuz

  14. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by superfletch View Post
    Personally I think SSD's and memory will make the most difference.
    If you have enough RAM to cache the whole SIMS database then it doesn't really matter what HDD's you have as it will barely ever need read or write to the HDD. If however you do not have enough RAM then HDD speed will make a massive difference.

    Butuz

  15. #29
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    As with most things, the more power you can give something, the better. SIMS is a prime candidate for this. That goes for CPU speed and width (number of cores), RAM speed and amount, Storage speed and network capacity. Below you'll find out how to monitor the key areas and my opinion on what this means:

    One of the good things about Server 2008 is the Resource Monitor (available from the Performance tab of Task Manager). Fire this up and in the CPU section of the Overview tab tick sqlservr.exe and DocumentServerService (and any other SIMS related process, such as Discover). This will filter the Disk, Network and Memory sections. This is a great way of quickly monitoring SIMS usage on the server without delving into Performance Monitor.

    What you'll notice is that any single user connection from a workstation won't use more than one CPU thread on the server. This tells you two things; 1) to service any given user request, you need a fast CPU so it can process this request as soon as possible (it doesn't spread it over several cores to speed it up), and 2) you need a large number of cores to service a large number of users and any given period of time. This last one, though, is not as important as it may sound. If the cores are quick enough, then it can turn around a lot of user requests before an additional core will noticeably speed things up. To find out when you need more cores (if you're already hitting 100% usage a lot) you'll need to dive into Performance Monitor and check out the CPU queue depth. Above 4 (I think this is the magic number) and you'll need another core.

    Further more, looking at the Disk section tells you something very important; the storage subsystem is used A LOT! Being able to fit the DB in RAM is great for read operations, but write operations need a quick storage subsystem. A decent SAN is always a good place to go, but any fast storage is good.

    The network section will give you an idea if you're bandwidth usage and, nicely, which workstations are using how much. The first surprising thing I noticed here is exactly how much DocStorage is used.

    The critical thing about the Memory section is the number of Hard Faults / sec. A Hard Fault is when the server's RAM does not contain the piece of data stored in memory that it needs. Read Page File / Swap File here. In other words, SIMS wants something it's put in memory, but the OS has run out of RAM and put that piece of data on the HDD in the Swap File (which, no matter how fast the storage, is a lot slower than RAM). Zero Hard Faults / sec is your target. This section also tells you what percentage of RAM is used and how much is used by each of the SIMS processes ticked in the CPU section. It's more useful, however, to switch to the Memory tab and keep an eye on Free and Standby memory. Free will always be low because any half decent modern OS will use as much RAM as possible to cache as much as it can (recent programs etc.). That cache is the Standby amount. When the server runs out of Free, it then has to make compromises with what it caches. It'll slow some things down and eventually cause SIMS to hard fault.

    The bottom line IMHO:

    CPU: A fast dual core would be better than a significantly slower quad core. Always the most modern variant (P4 based CPUs, though high in GHz, are rubbish for SQL loads. But no-one will be using these any more. Right?). Oh, and don't bother with Hyper-Threading, always have that switched off.
    RAM: Amount will be more important than speed if budget is an issue simply because you never want to run out!
    Storage: Fast and secure.
    Network: As long as you're not running some half-duplex 10Mb rubbish you're good to go!

    Hope this helps!

    Pete.

  16. Thanks to NorthernSands from:

    vikpaw (26th June 2011)

  17. #30

    vikpaw's Avatar
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    Useful tips Will take a look at that in more detail.

    Empirically, on my VM, when i had only allocated 1 virtual CPU the thing was unbelieveably sluggish and users were getting no response. It now has 4 vCPUs - the max i can give, and it runs really speed most of the time, but during busy periods it will lag. Usually it just spikes at 100, during busy periods you get churchtops or treelines appearing on the graph. I look at the VMWare resource graph.

    One thing i would mention is that i thought hyper-threading was useful, certainly on a VM as it manages it, and allows you twice as many vCPUs to allocate across all loads. One new feature coming in the latest vSphere is the ability to add a vCore to the vCPU and thus extend the power without going over the 4vCPU limit. [This is on my Advanced install, other products may have higher or lower limits.]



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