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Thin Client and Virtual Machines Thread, Whether to virtualise our main servers in Technical; I am due to replace our two main servers in the Easter Holidays. I have been wondering for a while ...
  1. #1

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    Whether to virtualise our main servers

    I am due to replace our two main servers in the Easter Holidays. I have been wondering for a while whether to introduce virtualisation with this transition, but not got around to seriously investigating. It would be really helpful to have some feedback on whether this is a sensible idea.

    We currently have two servers, one at each end of the school, that both act as file server, DC, DHCP, DNS, print server, WSUS, anti-virus management, and practically everything else. The idea is that if one is down the other can maintain most functions: the files are replicated with DFSR. The replication works fairly well, but we have never had to use the redundancy in practice for any significant period.

    Then we have a MIS database server, a web server (that also does WDS because that was the only place I could fit it) and a media server (basically an old client with a big hard disk for sticking all the videos on). I think these are significantly underutilised compared to the main servers.

    My hope would be that virtualisation would allow easier disaster recovery and better balancing of the load between servers, but I am not sure we have a large enough network to make it worthwhile (about 100 computers, 400 users).

    I have used VirtualBox quite a lot with virtual client computers, but not touched server virtualisation software yet, so I am worried about whether I have time to get up to speed on virtualisation over this term.

    What do you think: should I plan to visualise?

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    ADMaster's Avatar
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    Do you plan to buy new hardware to virtualize on?
    I cannot recommend virtualization enough. I migrated my virtualization environment from VMware to Hyper-v this last summer. I have a cluster setup with shared storage so any role server can fail over to the other host. Snapshots are nice for a quick backup if you are testing software.

    If you plan on buying new hardware give your self room to grow and handle the load of everything you have now.
    If you’re not ready to jump in with both feet convert one of your underutilized servers to start virtualizing a few things

    I think there are environments now that are fully virtualized, but they used to recommend keeping at least one DC physical, and I still follow that advice.


    My advice, yes start going virtual, it is more efficient, cost effective and very easy to spin up a new machine for testing.

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    twin--turbo's Avatar
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    Virtualise...

    Rob

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    Quote Originally Posted by ADMaster View Post
    Do you plan to buy new hardware to virtualize on?
    Yes we do. How do hardware requirements differ from a server that does X,Y,Z to a server hosting virtual machines to do X, to do Y, to do Z?

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    bossman's Avatar
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    Definitely!

    Xenserver here all 3 hosts have been running for just short of a year with HA

    Even run the Sims MIS server virtually and it helps tremendously when you can snapshot before you update,

    Yes go for it

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    sparkeh's Avatar
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    Yeah I would go for it even if it is just for improved DR recovery options

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jollity View Post
    Yes we do. How do hardware requirements differ from a server that does X,Y,Z to a server hosting virtual machines to do X, to do Y, to do Z?
    One of the major virtualisation benefits is redundancy.

    So I would say you want to spec your VM sizes, spec a server that can run those and allow for some overhead (maybe also some room for test vms as well if you can afford), and then buy two of them.

    Having the ability to have a server cluster in N+1 means you can have a catastrophic hardware failure in one of the hosts with no downtime for the guests. Which is schweeeeeeet

    I'd say though, first step is to decide your virtualisation platform, as there's different requirements for each with regard to how they divvy up the virtual hardware.

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    I was in a similar position to you many years ago. We had the one server with the "all-your-eggs-in-one-basket" scenario. Eventually I turned my attention onto VMware Server (much like VirtualBox or Hyper-V sitting on top of the full-blown OS). A few months later we went down the ESXi route.

    I installed ESXi on a brand new server and created 5 VMs on a local storage. The ESXi installation was installed onto a USB stick. Each VM had separate roles, e.g

    1. DC
    2. AV, Print & WSUS
    3. SIMS
    4. WDS
    5. SharePoint and other PHP hosted sites



    This worked wonderfully well as I could reboot a single VM without it affecting all the other services.

    Later, another server was introduced and I followed a similar setup as my first ESXi, but this time it had another DC introduced, terminal services and DFS.


    Unfortunately the school couldn't afford a SAN for shared storage so I had to resort to backing up the VMs to a HP MicroServer. We can copy back the VMs to either ESXi hosts should the worse happen. Sadly I never set up a cluster environment but to date (4 years and 2 months later) it's been running sweet.

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    rich_tech's Avatar
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    I would agree with virtualisation being the key ! its the future and allows you to get the max from your machines !

    We have a 2 node Hyper-V cluster here with a HP SAN attached to the back end for storage, we have a MS EES Agreement in place, it was a massive project and undertaking on our department to replace our aging RM server farm (lots of internal servers that were 6+ years old and fairly creaky), but it cannot be recommended enough I think on completion of it, we have a scalable platform now where you can spin up a server easily enough and move everything across without any loss of service with scope to add on servers further if needed

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    cpjitservices's Avatar
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    Same way as I'm doing it as have no SAN.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chuckster View Post
    I was in a similar position to you many years ago. We had the one server with the "all-your-eggs-in-one-basket" scenario. Eventually I turned my attention onto VMware Server (much like VirtualBox or Hyper-V sitting on top of the full-blown OS). A few months later we went down the ESXi route.

    I installed ESXi on a brand new server and created 5 VMs on a local storage. The ESXi installation was installed onto a USB stick. Each VM had separate roles, e.g

    1. DC
    2. AV, Print & WSUS
    3. SIMS
    4. WDS
    5. SharePoint and other PHP hosted sites



    This worked wonderfully well as I could reboot a single VM without it affecting all the other services.

    Later, another server was introduced and I followed a similar setup as my first ESXi, but this time it had another DC introduced, terminal services and DFS.


    Unfortunately the school couldn't afford a SAN for shared storage so I had to resort to backing up the VMs to a HP MicroServer. We can copy back the VMs to either ESXi hosts should the worse happen. Sadly I never set up a cluster environment but to date (4 years and 2 months later) it's been running sweet.

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    There is no reason whatsoever not to virtualise. No not even cost.

    If your needs are basic then you could get away with one physical server with a 5 year same day response warranty, get as many cpu cores as you need, slap 8-12 10K SAS drives in and make sure one disk is set to be a hotspare, redundant PSUs and two UPS's and then add Vware Academic Vsphere 5 Essentials for ~£500 (covers up to 3 physical servers for future expansion) and Veeam Backup and Recovery Essentials for one server for another ~£500 and I guaruntee you'll have 99.9% uptime, probably 100% uptime on the hardware for the first 3 years.

    You'll also never lose any data as it's sooo easy to backup with Veeam.

    If the stuff ever hits the fan in a big way, you can get all of your virtual machines back up and running within just a few hours on an average spec PC just by enabling hardware virtualisation in the bios, slapping ESXi on it and restoring your backups from Veeam.

    So many people do sooooo much overkill with multiple hosts, multiple sans, multiple san switches, multiple core switches and waste sooooo much money trying to move from 99.9% uptime to 99.99% (or just trying to cater for all softs of weird disaster recovery "nuclerar bomb drop" scenarios).

    VMware ESX is without a doubt the best thing that ever happened to Server Infrastructure in the last 10 years. Don't miss out on the benefits!
    Last edited by AButters; 23rd January 2014 at 01:58 PM.

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    Best thing we have.

    Saves sooo much time, can quickly deploy a new server or if you mess up can roll back to a snapshot, lifesaver!!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuckster View Post
    I was in a similar position to you many years ago. We had the one server with the "all-your-eggs-in-one-basket" scenario. Eventually I turned my attention onto VMware Server (much like VirtualBox or Hyper-V sitting on top of the full-blown OS). A few months later we went down the ESXi route.

    I installed ESXi on a brand new server and created 5 VMs on a local storage. The ESXi installation was installed onto a USB stick. Each VM had separate roles, e.g

    1. DC
    2. AV, Print & WSUS
    3. SIMS
    4. WDS
    5. SharePoint and other PHP hosted sites
    What sort of spec if your server?

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    Gibson335's Avatar
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    One of the great aspects of virtualisation is: need a new server, well no need to source, order, receive, set up, configure, install Windows, etc...just knock one up in half an hour...in fact it'd probably take longer to Win update it than to create it. You need 2 servers though if you don't want to create a single point of failure.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mdrabble View Post
    What sort of spec if your server?
    HP ProLiant ML370 G5

    2 x Intel Xeon E5440 2.83GHz
    20GB RAM

    DC and SIMS sit on a 2 x 146GB 10K SAS RAID 1+0 with Hotspare

    The others sit on a 4 x 72GB 15K SAS RAID 5 with Hotspare

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